The need to design equipment to move and store bulk solids exists in a wide variety of industries. Almost every industry handles one and often more bulk solids in production plants. Solids handling problems are common, and engineers need a variety of tools to solve and prevent them.
One tool that is being increasingly recognized for its ability to drive cost out of product development and shorten time-to-market by reducing physical prototypes is computer-aided-engineering (CAE). NASA has specialized needs in modeling of bulk solid systems such as designing equipment to operate in lunar or Martian environments and modeling the degradation of insulation material in storage tanks for space shuttle fuel.
Discrete element modeling (DEM) is the most common approach to provide a CAE tool for designing and analyzing bulk material flow. The Jenike & Johanson/Clarkson University team will use the EDEM software from DEM Solutions and develop methodologies to calibrate the software with physical tests and extend the range of problems that can be effectively analyzed with DEM.
According to physicist Philip Metzger of NASA’s John F. Kennedy Space Center, "Space exploration is heavily dependent upon granular materials, not only because we use bulk solids extensively in the technology to enable spaceflight, but because many of the places where we go in space are literally covered with bulk solids in the form of soil and dust. Advancing our ability to predict their behavior is of paramount importance to the economics and success of the space program. We are excited to sponsor important research and development in this field."