Analysis of bender element test interpretation using the discrete element method

J. O’Donovan, C. O’Sullivan, G. Marketos, D. Muir Wood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


While bender element testing is now well-established as a laboratory technique to determine soil stiffness, a robust technique to interpret the data remains elusive. A discrete element method (DEM) model of a face-centred cubic packing of uniform spheres was created to simulate bender element tests to investigate this test from a fundamental perspective. During the DEM simulations transmitter and receiver signals were recorded, analogous to the data available in laboratory tests, and these macro-scale data were supplemented with particle scale measurements (forces, stresses and displacements). A range of approaches previously applied in experimental and numerical studies were used to analyse the resulting data in both the time and frequency domains. The shortcomings in these approaches are clear from the differences in the resultant shear stiffness values and the frequency-dependent nature of the values. The particle-scale data enabled visualization of the passage of the wave through the sample, and it was found not to be possible to precisely link the arrival of the shear wave at the receiver and any of the previously proposed characteristic points along the signal recorded at the receiver. The most reliable determination of the shear wave velocity was obtained by applying a two-dimensional fast Fourier transform (2D FFT) to the data describing the velocity of the particles lying between the transmitter and receiver elements. Use of the DEM model and this 2D FFT approach facilitated the sensitivity of the system response to small variations in the interparticle force–displacement law (the contact model) to be established.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)197-216
Number of pages20
JournalGranular Matter
Issue number2
Early online date13 Mar 2015
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2015


  • Contact model
  • DEM
  • Small-strain stiffness
  • Wave propagation


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