Finite element modeling of biomass hopper flow

Hojae Yi, Christopher J. Lanning, James H. Dooley, Virendra Puri

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Hoppers are widely used biomass handling devices that channel bulk biomass from storage to subsequent handling equipment. Jenike’s longstanding approach, based on the Mohr-Coulomb model, has been successfully used to design hoppers handling cohesionless granular materials such as grains and other agricultural produces. However, designing a hopper to ensure reliable biomass flow is found to be challenging due to cohesion, irregular particle shape, and bulk material elastoplasticity. This study aims to address the biomass handling engineering challenge with alternative constitutive material models concerning the flow behavior of bulk solids. Finite element modeling is an approach that allows for implementation of different material models, whose underlying constitutive theories assist in investigating the origin and manifestation of bulk mechanical behavior of granular materials. This study focuses on the incipient gravity hopper flow of two types of biomass feedstocks, i.e., ground corn stover and Douglas fir wood. Three widely used constitutive material models, i.e., Mohr-Coulomb model, modified Cam-Clay model, and Drucker-Prager/Cap model, are implemented. Using the flow pattern represented by the volume of biomass exhibiting more than 7% of axial strain (Kamath and Puri, 1999), the finite element model predicts that the bulk corn stover particulate material forms an arch, which represents a hampered transition from the static state to the dynamic flow-state out of the hopper, whereas bulk Douglas fir wood particulate material develops a reliable mass flow pattern. A laboratory scale hopper was used to experimentally determine the biomass flow conditions, which were subsequently compared with the predicted onset of flow by a finite element model (FEM). The developed FEM was found to correctly predict the initiation of mass flow for the milled Douglas fir wood, whereas corn stover was predicted to establish a strong core flow suggesting an unreliable handling characteristic. This observation aligns with the reported poor handling of milled corn stover.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1162627
JournalFrontiers in Energy Research
StatePublished - 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Fuel Technology
  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology
  • Economics and Econometrics

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