Shortest link method for contact detection in discrete element method

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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


With the increasing demand for discrete element simulations with larger number of particles and more realistic particle geometries, the need for efficient contact detection algorithms is more evident. To date, the class of common plane (CP) methods is among the most effective and widely used contact detection algorithms in discrete element simulations of polygonal and polyhedral particles. This paper introduces a new approach to obtain the CP by employing a newly introduced concept of 'shortest link'. Among all the possible line segments that connect any point on the surface of particle A to any point on the surface of particle B, the one with the shortest length defines the shortest link between the two particles. The perpendicular bisector plane of the shortest link fulfils all the conditions of a CP, suggesting that CP can be obtained by seeking the shortest link. A new algorithm, called shortest link method (SLM), is proposed to obtain the shortest link and subsequently the CP between any two polyhedral particles. Comparison of the analysis time between SLM and previously introduced algorithms demonstrate that SLM results in a substantial speed up for polyhedral particles contact detection.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)783-801
Number of pages19
JournalInternational Journal for Numerical and Analytical Methods in Geomechanics
Issue number8
StatePublished - Jul 1 2006


  • Common plane
  • Contact detection
  • Discrete element method
  • Polyhedral particles

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geotechnical Engineering and Engineering Geology
  • Materials Science(all)
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Computational Mechanics


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