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Technical Note

Prediction of Brickwork Failure Using


Discrete-Element Method
Wei Chen 1; Heinz Konietzky 2; Chao Liu 3; Helin Fu 4; and Jiabing Zhang 5

Abstract: In this study, a discrete element approach is used to simulate brickwork. Bricks are represented by blocks with Mohr-Coulomb
plasticity and strain softening. The mortar consists of elastic Voronoi blocks connected by elastoplastic contacts. First, the parameters for
brick and mortar are calibrated through a series of bending and compression tests conducted on brick and mortar samples, respectively. Then,
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shear tests on triplets are performed and Brazilian tests on disc samples are investigated by the numerical approach. Compared with results
from other researchers, the numerical model can not only reproduce accurate strength values of the samples but is also able to display the
damage development and fracture patterns of the brick as well as mortar. DOI: 10.1061/(ASCE)MT.1943-5533.0002431. © 2018 American
Society of Civil Engineers.
Author keywords: Brickwork; Shear test; Fracture and strength of mortar; Numerical simulation.

Introduction (2016) built a three-dimensional (3D) nonlinear FEM to investigate


the effect of workmanship quality on masonry wall strength under
Masonry is one of oldest and most popular constructions created by in-plane and out-of-plane loads. Wang et al. (2016) used a FEM
bonding of bricks or rock blocks with a cementitious or lime mortar to study the in-plane mechanical response of retro-fitted masonry
(Sarhosis et al. 2015; Rafiee and Vinches 2013; Shermi and Dubey walls. Truong-Hong and Laefer (2013) devised 16 finite-element
2017). Due to high ratio of compressive to tensile strength and the models to investigate the impact of window shape, brick orientation,
low tensile strength of materials (mortar, brick, or stone units) window size, and the presence of lintels due to excavation-induced
(Messali et al. 2017), this type of structure is advantageous to resist subsidence. Bednarz et al. (2011) used a FEM to investigate the
compressive load, but cannot bear large tensile or shear loads. Es- load-bearing capacity of brick arches along with a variety of
pecially in the case of historical masonry structures, the weathering reinforcement techniques. Based on FEM, Cecchi and Sab (2002)
process inevitably promotes the growth of cracks in the bricks and identified the overall macroscopic effective elastic properties of
mortar. Safety and durability analysis for such structures is com- masonry in the intrinsic specific parameters that characterize the
plicated. One reason is that in-situ tests on historical masonry struc- microstructure. In these FE models, the bricks are considered elas-
tures should be conducted carefully to avoid further damage. The tic or rigid using solid elements, whereas the mortar and the brick-
other reason is that the whole system is highly nonlinear and even mortar interface are represented by interface elements with linear or
works up to a certain damage state. Therefore, some researchers nonlinear properties. The disadvantages of FEM are mainly related
have tried to use numerical simulation techniques to find solutions. to high computational cost (especially when the bricks are also con-
For example, Rafiee and Vinches (2013) and Beatini et al. (2017) sidered to have a nonlinear constitutive model), inability to predict
used a nonsmooth contact dynamic method to investigate the realistic crack and damage pattern at the limit state, and conver-
mechanical behavior of masonry structures. Milani and Taliercio gence difficulties when large deformations occur (Cecchi and
(2015) proposed a cell-type approach to study in-plane failure Sab 2002).
surfaces for masonry with joints of finite thickness. Baraldi and The distinct element method (DEM) introduced by Cundall
Cecchi (2017) adopted a discrete model with rigid blocks, hetero- (1971) is an efficient numerical approach to investigate masonry
geneous finite-element model (FEM), and homogenized plate structures due to its ability to simulate crack propagation. The
models to perform static and modal analysis of out-of-plane loaded key concept of this method is that the structure is assumed to be
masonry structures. Tabbakhha and Modaressi-Farahmand-Razavi composed of rigid or deformable blocks that are connected by lin-
1 ear or nonlinear contacts. Both deformable blocks and contacts
Lecturer, School of Civil Engineering, Central South Univ., Changsha
have strength and deformation parameters that control the mechani-
410075, China.
2
Professor, Institut für Geotechnik, Technische Universität Bergakademie cal behavior of the structure. The great advantage of DEM is that
Freiberg, Freiberg 09599, Germany. the sliding, rotation of blocks, opening and interlocking of contacts,
3
Lecturer, School of Civil Engineering, Guangzhou Univ., Guangzhou and large displacement of the structure can be visually displayed
510006, China (corresponding author). ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000- (Sarhosis et al. 2016). One of the limitations of DEM is that the
0003-4166-2150. Email: lc08tj@hotmail.com number of zones inside the complicated shaped deformable blocks
4
Professor, School of Civil Engineering, Central South Univ., Changsha will be large (Sarhosis et al. 2016). Many researchers have used
410075, China. the DEM for studying the masonry structures. For example,
5
Master, School of Civil Engineering, Central South Univ., Changsha Lemos (2007) presented discrete element models for the analysis
410075, China.
Note. This manuscript was submitted on November 6, 2017; approved
of masonry structures based on assemblies of blocks as an ideali-
on March 20, 2018; published online on June 28, 2018. Discussion period zation of the discontinuous nature that governs the mechanical
open until November 28, 2018; separate discussions must be submitted for behavior. Sarhosis et al. (2015), Giamundo et al. (2014), and
individual papers. This technical note is part of the Journal of Materials in Sarhosis and Sheng (2014) analyzed low-strength masonry struc-
Civil Engineering, © ASCE, ISSN 0899-1561. tures with DEM. Forgács et al. (2017), Tóth et al. (2009),

© ASCE 06018012-1 J. Mater. Civ. Eng.

J. Mater. Civ. Eng., 2018, 30(9): 06018012


and Sarhosisand et al. (2014) used DEM to study masonry arches. the mortar in detail, but also to decrease the number of Voronoi
Based on DEM, Caliò et al. (2012) investigated the typical in-plane blocks (reduce the computational cost). Therefore, the brick is de-
collapse behavior of unreinforced masonry buildings subjected to scribed by a continuum elastoplastic model, the mortar is composed
earthquake loading. Çaktı et al. (2016) built a DEM model of a of elastic Voronoi blocks that are connected by the elastoplastic con-
scaled masonry structure and investigated its seismic response tacts, and the brick-mortar interfaces are simulated by the elastoplas-
based on lab tests. Dimitri et al. (2011) studied the dynamic behav- tic contacts. The paper is organized as follows: first, constitutive
ior of masonry columns and arches on buttresses with DEM. In models of blocks and contacts are introduced; second, parameters
addition, other approaches that essentially correspond to DEM have for bricks and mortar are calibrated by bending and compression
frequently been used to analyze masonry structures. For example, tests; finally, shear tests on triplets and Brazilian tests on disc samples
Casolo and Milani (2010, 2013) investigated out-of-plane problems of brickwork are simulated. All simulated strength and fracture pat-
in masonry structures, Milani et al. (2008) and Milani (2008) per- terns of samples are compared with lab test results (Pelà et al. 2017).
formed limit analysis of masonry structures, and Minghini et al.
(2014) carried out seismic risk assessment of a 50-m-high masonry
chimney.
Constitutive Models
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The generality of micromodeling of masonry structures for these All presented simulations within this paper are conducted with the
numerical models is that the mortar and brick-mortar interface were 2-dimensional DEM code UDEC (Itasca 2011). The constitutive
simply considered to be the interface represented by the contact or model for the bricks is a Mohr-Coulomb elastoplastic model with
the simple interface element (dashpot-spring element), and compres- strain softening. The bricks are represented by rectangular blocks
sive or tensile strength characteristics and the thickness of the mortar with the same dimensions as tested samples. The mortar is com-
were ignored. For example, the researchers (Sarhosis et al. 2015; posed of thousands of elastic Voronoi blocks (the average edge
Wang et al. 2016; Giamundo et al. 2014; Sarhosis and Sheng length of Voronoi blocks is about 2.5 mm, as shown in Fig. 1),
2014; Forgács et al. 2017; Tóth et al. 2009) who used the DEM which are connected by contacts (dark gray lines in Fig. 1). Blocks
software UDEC to simulate masonry structures chose zero-thickness for bricks and Voronoi cells for mortar are internally meshed by
interfaces to represent the microstructure of the mortar joints. small triangular elements with length of about 2 mm (light gray
However, due to the simplifications, these models are unable to sim- line in Fig. 1). Therefore, there are two types of contacts: one be-
ulate the detailed fracture process, failure patterns, and accurate tween brick and mortar and the other between Voronoi blocks
strength of mortar. Pina-Henriques and Lourenço (2006) proposed inside the mortar. A Mohr-Coulomb failure criterion with tension
an approach to simulate compressive damage of the masonry struc- cut-off and shear softening [Eqs. (1) and (2)] is used to describe
ture based on the consideration that the brick and mortar are both the behavior of the contacts. The stress-displacement relation of
composed of elastic Voronoi blocks. The advantage of this method the contacts is shown in Fig. 1. Below the ultimate tensile and shear
(Pina-Henriques and Lourenço 2006) is that the damage character- strength, the stress-displacement relations in the normal and shear
istics of the brick and mortar are exhibited. However, if the scale of directions are linear, governed by normal stiffness kn and shear stiff-
the model is big, the number of Voronoi blocks is quite large. ness ks , respectively. The damage process associated with unrecov-
The purpose of this study is not only to present a discrete erable deformations and propagation of cracks inside the mortar or
element–based numerical simulation approach to analyze shear tests between brick and mortar is realized by the breakdown of contacts
of brickwork considering the fracture and strength characteristics of and relative movement along or across the contacts

Fig. 1. Numerical modeling concept and stress-displacement behavior of contacts. Bricks are represented by rectangular blocks with small
triangular internal mesh; mortar is represented by Voronoi blocks, which are connected by Contact Type 1 and interfaces between brick and mortar
represented by Contact Type 2.

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σn ¼ −kn un
ð1Þ
if σn < −J T ; σn ¼ J Tr ¼ 0
8
< τ s ¼ ks u s
>
τ max ¼ J C þ σn tan ϕ
>
:
if jτ s j ≥ τ max ; τ s ¼ signðΔus Þ · ðJ Cr þ σn tan ϕr Þ
ð2Þ

where σn and τ s = normal and shear stresses; kn and ks =


normal and shear stiffness; un and us = normal and shear dis-
placements; J T , J Tr , J C , and J Cr = tensile strength, residual tensile
strengths, cohesive strength, and residual cohesive strength,
respectively; τ max = shear strength; ϕ and ϕr = friction and
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residual friction angles; and Δus = incremental contact shear


displacement.

Numerical Calibration for Brick and Mortar

Calibrations for Brick


In general, there are two approaches to simulating a brick: one is
considering the brick as a continuous block and the other consid-
ering the brick as composed of many small blocks that are con-
nected by contacts. The first method has low computational costs,
but cannot exhibit the crack propagation process in the brick. The
second method has the opposite properties. The first method is
chosen in this paper for simulation of bricks because fractures
are mainly created inside mortar and along the contact between
brick and mortar in the case of shear tests. The other reason
is to reduce the computational costs. For the continuum-based
block, there are elastoplastic model and elastic model. The elastic Fig. 2. Fracture pattern of brick during bending and compression tests:
model has no failure state and only has the deformation and cor- (a) failed sample during bending test; (b) simulated displacement vec-
responding stress state with increase of the load (for both FEM tors [m] of bending test; (c) simulated distribution of plastified zones
and DEM, the elastic model has this characteristic). Therefore, during bending test; (d) failed sample during compression test; and
the elastic model cannot represent the real properties of the bricks (e) simulated distribution of plastified zones during compression test.
because the bricks (especially some old clay bricks) have the elas- [(a and d) Reprinted from Engineering Structures, Vol. 136, L. Pelà,
toplastic characteristic. Therefore, within this paper, the behavior K. Kasioumi, and P. Roca, “Experimental evaluation of the shear
of the bricks is described by a Mohr-Coulomb elastoplastic rela- strength of aerial lime mortar brickwork by standard tests on triplets
tion with strain softening. The plastic failure zone represents the and non-standard tests on core samples,” pp. 441–453, © 2017, with
positions of cracks inside the brick. The input parameters for the permission from Elsevier.]
bricks are listed in Table 1.
Dimensions of brick and the simulated fracture pattern for bend-
ing and compression tests are shown in Fig. 2. The displacement
vectors and the distribution of plastified zones indicate a vertical
tensile crack occurring in the middle of the brick, as observed dur- lab testing results for brick are listed in Table 2. The relative errors
ing the corresponding lab tests [Figs. 2(a–c)]. For compression between lab testing and numerical simulation are only 3.4 and 1.8%
tests, combinations of tensile and shear cracks led to the final fail- for bending and compression strength, respectively.
ure pattern, also verified by lab tests [Figs. 2(d and e)]. Tensile and
shear failure are dominant in the bending and compression tests,
Calibration for Mortar
respectively [Figs. 2(c and e)].
Simulated bending stress versus vertical displacement of the In order to investigate the detailed fracturing process and the
midspan during the bending test and compressive stress versus strength characteristics of the mortar, a Voronoi-based grain struc-
vertical strain during the compression test are shown in Fig. 3. ture (Chen et al. 2016, 2018) is used to simulate the mortar. Elastic
Both curves exhibit brittle failure characteristics. Simulation and behavior is assigned to the Voronoi blocks and the elastoplastic

Table 1. Basic parameters for brick


Stage Gb (GPa) K b (GPa) φb (degrees) Cb (MPa) σt (MPa) ψ1 (degrees) db (kg=m3 )
Initial stage 2.65 2.8 36 4.6 4.4 15 2,000
Final softening stage 2.65 2.8 30 1.1 0.8 10 2,000
Note: Gb and K b = shear and bulk modulus of the brick, φb = friction angle, Cb = cohesion, σt = tensile strength, ψ1 = dilation angle, and db = density.

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Table 3. Block and contact parameters for simulating mortar
Parameter Symbol Value Unit
Block parameters
Density dm 1,900 kg=m3
Shear modulus Gm 600 MPa
Bulk modulus Km 800 MPa
Contact Type 1 parameters (mortar-mortar interface)
Normal stiffness kn 3,400 GPa=m
Shear stiffness ks 680 GPa=m
Tensile strength JT 0.85 MPa
Residual tensile strength J Tr 0 MPa
Cohesive strength JC 0.6 MPa
Residual cohesive strength J Cr 0 MPa
Friction angle ϕ 30 Degrees
Residual friction angle φr 12 Degrees
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Contact dilation angle ψ2 15 Degrees

Fig. 3. Simulated stress-displacement and stress-strain curves:


(a) bending stress versus vertical displacement of midspan during bend-
ing tests; and (b) vertical compressive stress versus vertical strain
during compression test.

Table 2. Comparing lab testing and simulation results for brick


Brick Bending Compressive
sample strength (MPa) strength (MPa)
1 3.81 19.6
2 3.53 19.5
3 3.57 19.1
4 3.74 18.3
5 3.19 16.6
6 3.32 17.5
7 4.40 —
8 4.73 —
Average 3.79 18.4
Simulation result 3.66 18.1
Source: Data from Pelà et al. (2017).

Fig. 4. Simulated compression test for mortar: (a) fracture pattern, and
model is selected to describe the contacts (mortar-mortar interfaces) (b) stress-strain relation.
between the Voronoi blocks. The Voronoi block and Contact Type 1
parameters (Fig. 1) are listed in Table 3. These parameters are the
result of a calibration procedure based on bending and compression
tests for the mortar. In the postfailure stage, the compressive stress dramatically de-
The simulation result of a compression test for mortar is shown creases with ongoing strain.
in Fig. 4. The size of the 2-dimensional model is 40 × 40 mm, The simulation result of the bending test is illustrated in Fig. 5.
which is the same as in the corresponding lab tests. As shown in The sample size for mortar is the same as for the brick. An obvious
Fig. 4(a), shear and tensile cracks are distributed inside the mortar main tensile crack is observed [see magnified view of fracture area
sample, resulting in final failure. The curve of compressive stress in Fig. 5(b)]. The fracture pattern is the same as the one for the brick
versus vertical strain shows typical brittle failure characteristics. bending test. The crack path is not a straight line, but a curve with

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Fig. 5. Simulated bending test for mortar: (a) fracture pattern; (b) magnified view indicating crack propagation; and (c) bending stress versus vertical
displacement of midspan.

small deviations like that observed during the lab tests. The curve Table 4. Comparison between lab test and simulation results for mortar
of bending stress versus vertical displacement of the midspan Mortar Bending Compressive
[Fig. 5(c)] also shows a dramatic decrease of bending stress with sample strength (MPa) strength (MPa)
growing displacement (brittle failure).
1 0.48 1.70
Comparison of simulation and lab test results for mortar shows
1.54
(Table 4) that the relative errors between the simulation result and 2 0.52 1.47
the average value of the lab tests are 5.5 and 8.4% for bending and 1.72
compressive strength, respectively. 3 0.60 1.63
1.72
4 0.60 1.68
Numerical Simulations for Shear Tests on Triplets 1.58
Average 0.55 1.63
The dimensions of the numerical model and the boundary condi- Simulation result 0.52 1.78
tions of the shear tests on triplets (three bricks connected by two Source: Data from Pelà et al. (2017).
layers of mortar) are illustrated in Fig. 6. During the shear tests,
the normal pressure Pn is first loaded on the right and left sides
of the triplet. Then the bottom of the right and left bricks are fixed Fracture Pattern
in the vertical direction, and the vertical load P applied at the top
of middle brick increases slowly. As shown in Fig. 6(c), Contact The simulated fracture pattern of shear tests on triplets is illustrated
Type 2 exists between brick and mortar, which represents the in Fig. 7. The average edge length of the Voronoi blocks is 2.5 mm.
interface between them. In order to reproduce the fracture process The simulation results are used for comparison with lab test results
and the strength value during shear tests on triplets, the parameters (Pelà et al. 2017). As shown in Fig. 7(a), three types of cracks are
for Contact Type 2 were determined by calibration according to the observed in the numerical model: Tensile Crack 1 and Shear Crack
lab test results (Table 5). An Intel i7 CPU with 3.60 GHz was used 3 are inside the mortar, whereas Shear Crack 2 propagates along the
for simulation and it took about 10 h to simulate a shear test of the boundary between brick and mortar. It can be concluded that shear
triplets. failure is the dominant pattern in the whole sample, but both tensile

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Fig. 6. Numerical model of shear test on triplets: (a) model set-up; and (b and c) contact types.

Table 5. Contact Type 2 parameters for interface between mortar and brick Numerical Simulation of Disc Sample under
Parameter Symbol Value Unit Diametrical Loading
Normal stiffness kn 680 GPa=m
Shear stiffness ks 340 GPa=m Fracture Pattern
Tensile strength JT 0.2 MPa
The shear test on triplets is a standard test. However, it is practically
Residual tensile strength J Tr 0 MPa
Cohesive strength JC 0.3 MPa
difficult to extract this type of sample from existing masonry struc-
Residual cohesive strength J Cr 0 MPa tures. For this reason, disc samples based on in-situ core drilling
Friction angle ϕ 46 Degrees were proposed to do the shear tests (Pelà et al. 2017). For the
Residual friction angle φr 18.4 Degrees simulation of the shear failure of disc samples under diametrical
Contact dilation angle ψ2 15 Degrees loading—similar to the well-known Brazilian test (Fig. 9)—the
parameters for Contact Type 2 (interface between brick and mortar)
are the same as those given in Table 5. The diameter of the sample
is 90 mm and the compressive load is applied on the top of the
and shear cracks propagate inside the mortar. Fracture patterns of trip- sample in the vertical direction. The fracture pattern for α ¼ 40°
lets documented by other researchers are shown in Figs. 7(b and c). (α is the inclination angle of the mortar layer with respect to
Obviously, the simulated detailed fracture pattern and fracture loca- the horizontal) is illustrated in Fig. 9. Shear Crack 2 develops be-
tions in the mortar and along the interface are very similar to those tween the brick and the mortar, Tensile Crack 1 propagates inside
observed during lab tests. the mortar, and Shear Crack 3 is observed inside the mortar. It can
be concluded that shear failure dominates the whole sample and a
shear band develops in the mortar with increasing load. The simu-
Shear Strength lated fracture pattern almost duplicates the failure pattern observed
The simulated stress-displacement behavior under different normal during lab testing.
pressures is shown in Fig. 8(a). It can be concluded that the shear
strength increases with increasing normal pressure. Significant Shear Strength
residual strength is observed because frictional resistance is acti-
vated in the postfailure stage. A comparison between simulation The simulated curves of shear stress-loading plate displacement for
and lab test results (Pelà et al. 2017) with respect to the maximum different α values are shown in Fig. 10(a). The maximum shear
shear stress (shear strength) is illustrated in Fig. 8(b). The average stress increases with decreasing α. A residual shear strength is also
shear strength values obtained by lab tests under normal pressure of observed due to activation of frictional resistance. As shown in
0.3, 0.6, and 1.0 MPa are 0.26, 0.45, and 0.68 MPa, respectively. Fig. 10(b), under even the same α, the lab test data show a large
The corresponding simulation results for shear strength are 0.29, scatter. This means that the efficiency and accuracy of this type of
0.45, and 0.62 MPa, respectively. The relative errors between testing are not better than those of the shear tests on triplets. Never-
lab test and simulation results are 11.5, 0, and 8.8%, respectively. theless, the simulation results are inside the range of the test data,

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Fig. 7. Fracture pattern of shear tests on triplets: (a) simulation result


for 1.0 MPa normal pressure; (b) failed sample for 1.0 MPa normal Fig. 8. Simulation results of shear tests on triplets: (a) shear stress
pressure; and (c) failed sample for 0.6 MPa normal pressure. [(b–c) versus shear displacement under different normal pressures; and
Reprinted from Engineering Structures, Vol. 136, L. Pelà, K. Kasioumi, (b) comparison between simulation and lab test results. (Data from
and P. Roca, “Experimental evaluation of the shear strength of aerial Pelà et al. 2017.)
lime mortar brickwork by standard tests on triplets and non-standard
tests on core samples,” pp. 441–453, © 2017, with permission from
Elsevier.]
However, the positions of the cracks are not identical due to the
shape effect. Comparing Fig. 13 with Fig. 7(a) (the average edge
length is different), the positions of the cracks are not the same due
and some simulation results are close to the average value of the to the size and shape effect. Nevertheless, the fracture patterns in
test data. Figs. 12 and 13 are similar to the failure states in the experiments
[Fig. 7(b and c)].

Effects of the Shape and the Size of Voronoi Blocks


Conclusions
Generally, the mesh of the DEM model has an influence on the
global response of the numerical model (Pina-Henriques and The DEM is a useful method to analyze the masonry structure.
Lourenço 2006; Milani and Lourenço 2009; Milani 2015). In order However, most researchers who used this method simply consid-
to consider the influence of the shape and size of Voronoi blocks on ered the mortar to be zero thickness and ignored the detailed
the shear strength and the fracture pattern, more simulations are strength and damage characteristics of the mortar. Therefore, a dis-
conducted on shear tests of the triplets. For example, the average crete element model is proposed to predict the mechanical behavior
length of Voronoi blocks is set to be 1.25, 2.5, and 5.0 mm, respec- of brickwork with more practical considerations for the mortar.
tively. For each size, two types of Voronoi structure are generated The mortar is simulated by an assembly of Voronoi bodies, and
(this means the shape of the Voronoi block in the same position is the bricks are represented by blocks with Mohr-Coulomb plasticity
different). The simulation results of the shear strength are shown in and strain softening. The material parameters for mortar and
Fig. 11. It can be concluded that the shear strength decreases with brick are calibrated by bending and compression tests. The inter-
increasing average edge length for the same values of the contact face parameters between brick and mortar are calibrated by a series
parameters. When the average edge length is kept the same, the of shear tests using triplets and disc samples.
shear strength has small variation for the two types of Voronoi According to the simulations, the following conclusions can
structure. be drawn:
In addition, both the size and shape of Voronoi blocks have ef- • The stress-strain and stress-displacement and strength beha-
fects on the detailed positions of cracks. For example, comparing vior of brickwork under in-plane loading conditions can be
Fig. 12 with Fig. 7(a) (the average edge length is the same, but the well reproduced by the proposed numerical simulation
exact Voronoi structure is different), the types of cracks are similar. approach.

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Fig. 11. Simulation results of shear strength of triplets with different


shape and size of the Voronoi blocks (1.0 MPa normal pressure).

Fig. 9. Fracture pattern of disc under diametrical loading: (a) simulation


result; and (b) failed sample. (Reprinted from Engineering Structures,
Vol. 136, L. Pelà, K. Kasioumi, and P. Roca, “Experimental evaluation
of the shear strength of aerial lime mortar brickwork by standard tests
on triplets and non-standard tests on core samples,” pp. 441–453,
© 2017, with permission from Elsevier.)

Fig. 12. Fracture pattern of shear tests on triplets with 1.0 MPa normal
pressure considering shape effect. Average edge length of the Voronoi
blocks is 2.5 mm and the Voronoi structure is regenerated comparing
with Fig. 7(a).

Fig. 10. Simulation results for disc under diametrical loading: (a) shear
stress versus vertical displacement of loading plate for different; and Fig. 13. Fracture pattern of shear tests on triplets with 1.0 MPa normal
(b) comparison between simulation and lab test results. (Data from pressure considering size effect. Average edge length of the Voronoi
Pelà et al. 2017.) blocks is 5.0 mm.

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• Detailed information about fracture development inside the Dimitri, R., L. De Lorenzis, and G. Zavarise. 2011. “Numerical study on
mortar and between brick and mortar, which should not be the dynamic behavior of masonry columns and arches on buttresses
ignored, can be reproduced by this simulation approach. with the discrete element method.” Eng. Struct. 33 (12): 3172–3188.
• In addition to shear fracturing along the interface between brick https://doi.org/10.1016/j.engstruct.2011.08.018.
Forgács, V., V. Sarhosis, and K. Bagi. 2017. “Minimum thickness of semi-
and mortar, both tensile and shear cracks emerge inside the
circular skewed masonry arches.” Eng. Struct. 140: 317–336. https://doi
mortar even during shear tests. .org/10.1016/j.engstruct.2017.02.036.
• The size and shape of Voronoi blocks have effects on the Giamundo, V., V. Sarhosis, G. P. Lignola, Y. Sheng, and G. Manfredi. 2014.
strength and the detailed fractures during shear tests. “Evaluation of different computational modelling strategies for the
Only all kinds of available ultimate loads during tests were used analysis of low strength masonry structures.” Eng. Struct. 73:
to calibrate the numerical models. In order to obtain more precise 160–169. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.engstruct.2014.05.007.
and reasonable simulating results, the load versus displacement Itasca. 2011. UDEC universal distinct element code: Theory and back-
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Acknowledgments Milani, E., G. Milani, and A. Tralli. 2008. “Limit analysis of masonry
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This work was supported by the National Natural Science Int. J. Solids Struct. 45 (20): 5258–5288. https://doi.org/10.1016/j
Foundation of China (NSFC, Grant Nos. 51608537 and 51538009), .ijsolstr.2008.05.019.
China Postdoctoral Science Foundation (Grant No. 2017M610508), Milani, G. 2008. “3D upper bound limit analysis of multi-leaf masonry
and Postdoctoral Foundation of Central South University. The walls.” Int. J. Mech. Sci. 50 (4): 817–836. https://doi.org/10.1016/j
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