• lattice Boltzmann method;
  • distinct element method;
  • pore scale;
  • fluid–solid interaction;
  • sand arch


Three porous media flow problems, in which the fluid mechanical interactions are critical, are studied in a mesoscopic–microscopic coupling system. In this system, fluid flow in the pore space is explicitly modeled at mesoscopic level by the lattice Boltzmann method, the geometrical representation and the mechanical behavior of the solid skeleton are modeled at microscopic level by the particulate distinct element method (DEM), and the interfacial interaction between the fluid and the solids is resolved by an immersed boundary scheme. In the first benchmark problem, the well-known and frequently utilized Ergun equation is validated in periodic particle and periodic pore models. In the second problem, the upward seepage problem is simulated over three stages: The settlement of the column of sphere under gravity loading is measured to illustrate the accuracy of the DEM scheme; the system is solved to hydrostatic state with pore space filled with fluid, showing that the buoyancy effect is captured correctly in the mesoscopic–microscopic coupling system; then, the flow with constant rate is supplied at the bottom of the column; the swelling of the ground surface and pore pressure development from the numerical simulation are compared with the predictions of the macroscopic consolidation theory. In the third problem, the fluid-flow-induced collapse of a sand arch inside a perforation cavity is tested to illustrate a more practical application of the developed system. Through comparing simulation results with analytical solutions, empirical law and physical laboratory observations, it is demonstrated that the developed lattice Boltzmann–distinct element coupling system is a powerful fundamental research tool for investigating hydromechanical physics in porous media flow. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.