A fast contact detection algorithm for 3-D discrete element method

Erfan G. Nezami, Youssef M.A. Hashash, Dawei Zhao, Jamshid Ghaboussi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In the discrete element method, determining the contact points between interacting particles and the associated contact normals at each time step is a critically important and time consuming calculation. Common-plane (CP) algorithm is one of the more effective methods for contact detection when dealing with two-dimensional polygonal or three-dimensional polyhedral particles. A new approach, called fast common plane (FCP) method, is proposed to find the common plane between polygonal particles. FCP approach recognizes that a common plane has identifying characteristics, which dramatically reduce the search space for the common plane. In two-dimensions, the CP is found by checking only 5 possible candidate planes. In three-dimensions, the candidate planes fall within 4 types related to the geometry of the particles and their relative positions. Numerical experiments reveal that in three dimensions FCP algorithm can be up to 40 times faster than available search methods for finding the common-plane.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)575-587
Number of pages13
JournalComputers and Geotechnics
Issue number7
StatePublished - Oct 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geotechnical Engineering and Engineering Geology
  • Computer Science Applications


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