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Numerical Simulation of Particle Stress and Fracture using FEMDEM: Application to Process Catalysts

Simulation of Particle Stress and Fracture using FEMDEM: Application to Process

Matthey CASE/EPSRC PhD Studentship Award- Duration 36 months


Dr JP Latham, Dr Jiansheng Xiang
Industry Contacts:
Principal Investigator - Dr Michele Marigo
Co-investigators - Dr Mikael Carlsson, Prof Hugh Stitt

Applications are invited for a PhD
studentship to 
join AMCG
(Applied Modelling and Computational Group) 
in the Department of Earth Science
& Engineering.

Imperial College London (ICL), Earth
Science and Engineering Department, has developed a 3D code based on the
combined Finite-Discrete Element Method (FEMDEM), see These codes allow not only particle flows to be simulated
for moving particles (the DEM part) but they also allow detailed stress
calculations to be undertaken on any complex particle shapes and complex structures
(such as packed beds) by meshing the interior of the solid (the FEM part). This
code therefore offers the prospect in the long term of simulating stresses and
fracture during loading of cylindrical and other sophisticated shapes - such as
might be developed and optimized for catalyst pellets in Johnson Matthey's
production processes.

This studentship links JM's future needs with Imperial's
excellence award winning AMCG research group. Implementing fracture in the 3D
multi-body FEMDEM code that is capable of capturing packing processes with
great accuracy is still very much a "work in progress" and this
project will develop and validate certain aspects of the code that are relevant
to JM's interests. For example, the research will reveal how force and stress
chains form within packed beds or packed tubes and how different pellet shapes
and strengths contribute to improved catalyst performance. The student will
also have a unique opportunity to work at JM's laboratories on pellet
preparation as well as strength and fracture studies to validate existing 2D
models and support the development and validation of the 3D fracture models.
The aim would be to compare laboratory measurements at JM with the equivalent
FEMDEM models to examine particle stresses and fractures e.g. in a system with
a small number of particles in a tubular container. The PhD may emphasise code
developments or results interpretation or be a balance between the two.

The Candidate:
Successful candidates will join, and be supported by, a dynamic research group
with world-class expertise in modelling. The candidate will have the
opportunity to develop their career and profile by presenting at international
conferences in numerical and applied fields and publishing in high impact
journals. Candidates should have a good mathematical background and a good
degree/diploma in an appropriate field such as earth science, physics,
mathematics, mechanical, civil or materials engineering. Experience of research
relevant to the mechanics of fracture will be an advantage. Good written and
spoken communication skills are essential. For further information please see
our website: The project
is funded by EPSRC and JMTC who require candidates to be UK/EU. Minimum Stipend
for 2013 - 2016 is £16,000 per annum. Application forms and instructions to
send CVs, references etc can be obtained from our website using the 'Apply'
button below or from Ms Samantha Delamaine (E-mail:, Tel: +44 (0) 207 594 7339). Further information about the
project can be obtained from John-Paul Latham (
Interviews are planned for May-June and applications are accepted until the
post is filled. An early start date is preferred.

Committed to equality and valuing diversity. We are also an
Athena Bronze SWAN Award winner, a Stonewall Diversity Champion and a Two Ticks

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