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In this thesis three approaches are combined to model the dynamics of rapid dense granular materials: in-depth theoretical analysis, discrete particle simulations (DPMs) and micro-macro mapping techniques. ‘A beautiful blend is established, from particle scale to continuum,’ Deepak Tunuguntla says.

The research in this thesis project was partially inspired by its industrial relevance, which concerns the feed of mixed sinter particles and coke in blast furnaces at any global steel manufacturing company. ‘Granular segregation has become a serious problem in industries,’ Deepak says. ‘A good mixture blend is essential in producing high quality product.’ The PhD project was part of a STW grant titled: Polydisperse granular flows over inclined channels which was, in majority, supervised by Dr. Anthony Thornton at the Multi-Scale Mechanics & Mathematics of Computational Science group.


Deepak: ‘Numerical techniques, running simulations and designing a theoretical framework were central parts of my work. Experimental work was performed by colleagues from within the Technical University of Eindhoven. Half-yearly we had user-group meetings.

‘The work is of a generic nature. Partners from several different sectors may benefit, for example from food and beverage manufacturing to geophysical flows. Also the micro-macro methods presented here are valid for any discrete data, as in particle simulations, molecular dynamics and other experimental data in chemistry lab phenomena. The scientific findings were published in the Journal of Fluid Mechanics and Journal of Computational Particle Mechanics.’


Deepak is happy to enhance his skills further, as a post-doc funded by STW-VIDI grant, of Dr. Anthony Thornton. Here he plans to apply and extend his skills towards more complex systems, which for e.g. involve rotating drums. ‘We have a strong team within our Group now, with expertise in, both, simulations and experimental techniques,’ he says. ‘With high-quality experimental techniques, we are able to track the particles very accurately. Thereby enabling us to develop more accurate numerical models.’


A spin-off company, MercuryLab BV, was recently established as a result of the research activities carried out by Thornton and Dr. Thomas Weinhart. The MercuryLab team also involves fellow Multi-Scale Mechanics group members, i.e. Dr. Deepak Tunuguntla and Dr. Kit Windows-Yule. The spin-off is initially funded by a STW-Take Off grant and works on developing an open-source discrete particle tracking code (, which can be utilised via a simple pay-per-use web-interface, called MercuryCloud which is still in progress.

Deepak: ‘It is a robust practical tool for industries,’ he says. ‘We aim at consulting companies, train technicians and optimise designs, by using these tools. Recently, we also successfully organised a well-received training course for 10 participants.’

Poster prize

Creating impact in society is an important incentive for Deepak’s future career. ‘I learned that people are interested in the work we do,’ he says. ‘During the poster presentation contest at the Mesa+ Day, Dr. Thomas Weinhart won the third prize, by presenting his work in an attractive way. The prize and the interest shown, were a major drive to continue on this topic.’