Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Civil Engineering

Major Professor

Alaa K. Ashmawy, Ph.D.


Fourier transform, Spherical harmonics, Shape descriptors, Skeletonization, Angularity, Roundness, Liquefaction, Overlapping discrete element cluster


The study of particle morphology plays an important role in understanding the micromechanical behavior of cohesionless soil. Shear strength and liquefaction characteristics of granular soil depend on various morphological characteristics of soil grains such as their particle size, shape and surface texture. Therefore, accurate characterization and quantification of particle shape is necessary to study the effect of grain shape on mechanical behavior of granular assembly. However, the theoretical and practical developments of quantification of particle morphology and its influence on the mechanical response of granular assemblies has been very limited due to the lack of quantitative information about particle geometries, the experimental and numerical difficulties in characterizing and modeling irregular particle morphology.

Motivated by the practical relevance of these challenges, this research presents a comprehensive approach to model irregular particle shape accurately both in two and three dimensions. To facilitate the research goal, a variety of natural and processed sand samples is collected from various locations around the world. A series of experimental and analytical studies are performed following the sample collection effort to characterize and quantify particle shapes of various sand samples by using Fourier shape descriptors. As part of the particle shape quantification and modeling, a methodology is developed to determine an optimum sample size for each sand sample used in the analysis. Recently, Discrete Element Method (DEM) has gained attention to model irregular particle morphology in two and three dimensions.

In order to generate and reconstruct particle assemblies of highly irregular geometric shapes of a particular sand sample in the DEM environment, the relationship between grain size and shape is explored and no relationship is found between grain size and shape for the sand samples analyzed. A skeletonization algorithm is developed in this study in order to automate the Overlapping Discrete Element Cluster (ODEC) technique for modeling irregular particle shape in two and three dimensions. Finally, the two-dimensional and three-dimensional particle shapes are implemented within discrete element modeling software, PFC2D and PFC3D, to evaluate the influence of grain shape on shear strength behavior of granular soil by using discrete simulation of direct shear test.