Machine learning accelerated discrete element modeling of granular flows

Liqiang Lu*, Xi Gao, Jean François Dietiker, Mehrdad Shahnam, William A. Rogers

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Granular flows are widely encountered in many industrial processes and natural phenomena. Discrete Element Modeling (DEM) is a useful tool for understanding and troubleshooting devices processing granular materials. However, its applicability is significantly limited by the huge computational cost associated with detecting and computing collisions. In this research, the computation speed of DEM was accelerated by orders of magnitude using a convolutional neural network to replace the direct calculation of particle–particle and particle-boundary collisions. The MFiX software was used to generate the training and testing dataset. A GPU accelerated TensorFlow model was used to train the neural network and test the results. The model fluctuations caused by different training steps were reduced with a multi-scale loss function. The accuracy was improved with more frames within one training step. The modeling of a rotating drum and a hopper demonstrated the accuracy and efficiency of this machine learning accelerated DEM in the simulation of granular flows.

Original languageEnglish
Article number116832
JournalChemical Engineering Science
StatePublished - 14 Dec 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Convolutional neural network
  • Discrete Element Modeling
  • Granular flow
  • Machine learning
  • TensorFlow


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