The aim of this study is to demonstrate the use of tetrahedral clumps to model scaled railway ballast using the discrete element method (DEM). In experimental triaxial tests, the peak friction angles for scaled ballast are less sensitive to the confining pressure when compared to full-sized ballast. This is presumed to be due to the size effect on particle strength, whereby smaller particles are statistically stronger and exhibit less abrasion. To investigate this in DEM, the ballast is modelled using clumps with breakable asperities to produce the correct volumetric deformation. The effects of the quantity and properties of these asperities are investigated, and it is shown that the strength affects the macroscopic shear strength at both high and low confining pressures, while the effects of the number of asperities diminishes with increasing confining pressure due to asperity breakage. It is also shown that changing the number of asperities only affects the peak friction angle but not the ultimate friction angle by comparing the angles of repose of samples with different numbers of asperities.
McDowell, G. R., & Li, H. (in press). Discrete element modelling of scaled railway ballast under triaxial conditions. Granular Matter, https://doi.org/10.1007/s10035-016-0663-8