Multiscale modeling of coupled thermo-hydro-mechanical behavior in ice-bonded granular media subject to freeze-thaw cycles

Jidu Yu, Jidong Zhao, Weijian Liang, Shiwei Zhao

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review


We present a novel multiscale framework that integrates the single-point multiphase material point method (MPM) and the discrete element method (DEM) to model the complex freeze-thaw behavior of ice-bonded granular media. The proposed numerical framework is featured by (a) employing the continuum-based MPM to solve the macroscopic governing equations for granular systems involving thermo-hydro-mechanical (THM) coupling and phase transitions, and (b) using the grain-scale discontinuum-based DEM to capture the thermodynamically sensitive mechanical behaviors of ice-bonded granular media. The multiscale framework is constructed by attaching a DEM-based representative volume element (RVE) at each material point in MPM. This RVE serves as a live sample of each material point to track the state-dependent effective stress with respect to the local deformation and thermodynamic conditions like ice saturation, bridging the macroscopic phenomena and the underlying microstructural evolution. In particular, we implement a semi-implicit staggered integration scheme for the macroscale THM-coupled MPM to boost computational efficiency and enhance numerical stability. We also propose an innovative ice saturation-dependent bond contact to effectively reproduce the thermodynamically sensitive mechanical behaviors. The new multiscale framework is first benchmarked against analytical solutions for 1D non-isothermal consolidation problems. We then demonstrate its exceptional capability in simulating intricate freeze-thaw behavior of granular media through a boundary value problem involving cyclic freeze-thaw actions. Further cross-scale analyses reveal its potential in capturing key loading- and state-dependent THM responses with explainable microstructural mechanisms during complex freezing and thawing loading conditions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number106349
JournalComputers and Geotechnics
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2024


  • Climate warming
  • Discrete element method
  • Freeze-thaw cycles
  • Frozen soil
  • Ice bonding effect
  • Material point method
  • Multiphysics modeling
  • Multiscale modeling
  • Phase transition
  • THM coupling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geotechnical Engineering and Engineering Geology
  • Computer Science Applications


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