Background

VGeST – a suite of Virtual Geoscience Simulation Tools for modelling discontinuous systems, i.e. particulate, granular, blocky, layered, fracturing and fragmenting systems – is a computer software environment. It is the result of the VGW (Virtual Geoscience Workbench) research project, a 5-year collaborative project developed on two sites, Imperial College London (PI: Dr. J-P. Latham) and Queen Mary, University of London (PI: Prof. A. Munjiza, see also Virtual Experimentation Lab).

Geoscience deals with sedimentary deposits, fractured rock masses, mineral resources, and porous media, and increasingly looks to simulation tools such as VGeST to understand these discontinuous systems and meet pressing environmental and resources challenges.

The VGeST website has two functions: to present results of the EPSRC VGW project and to provide a live forum for future networking and research developments, building upon further developments and applications of VGeST simulation tools. These will be managed through the open source repository, Sourceforge.net.

FEMDEM modelling technology has been created under the VGW project through the harnessing of 15 years of algorithmic developments by Munjiza (1990-2004) see key FEMDEM papers, together with novel 3D FEMDEM solutions (Xiang, Munjiza) which have been incorporated into the core 3D FEMDEM module designed and implemented by Dr. J. Xiang (2006-2009) under Munjiza’s direction. FEMDEM allows us to combine multi-body particle interaction and motion modelling (i.e. Discrete Element Method, DEM) with the ability to model internal deformation of arbitrary shapes (Finite Element Method, FEM). We believe that a single general-purpose discrete element program is unlikely to give robust handling of the diversity of particulate systems encountered in geoscience. We have therefore made the combined Finite-Discrete Element Method (FEMDEM) pioneered by Munjiza in the 1990s the core of our solids technology. FEMDEM is especially well suited to irregular geometry with deforming and fracturing behaviour.

A considerable effort within the VGW research programme on the IC site has been directed towards coupling solids modelling with a generic adaptive unstructured meshing CFD code  ”Fluidity” developed within Imperial’s AMCG research group, (see AMCG Wiki within the Earth Science and Engineering department). This opens the door to important multi-physics applications. (See for example our work in Coastal Engineering.)

History

In 1989, Antonio Munjiza began work on merging finite and discrete elements. During 1990, algorithmic solutions for the new combined method were developed, together with a C-based implementation known as the Y code. By 2004, many of the key FEMDEM algorithms had been published in top journals. These developments and implementations were later expanded upon in Munjiza’s textbook, The Combined Finite-Discrete Element Method published in 2004 by Wiley and Sons, New York.

Munjiza (QMUL) and Latham, (Imperial College London) received EPSRC research funding and began work on the Virtual Geoscience Workbench project in Oct 2004. The main objectives were to assemble Y codes in both 2D and 3D, to make them available in Open Source format and to apply the codes to Geoscience. The result is an Open Source Virtual Geoscience Workbench (VGW). To signal the post-VGW phase of research, development and applications, the technology was later renamed VGeST in Oct 2009.

Footnote

After completing the VGW project in September 2009, the collective name for the simulation tools was changed to Virtual Geoscience Simulation Tools, VGeST. This coincided with a request from the company, FRUGRO, who were marketing a product called the Jason Geoscience Workbench developed for geophysical interpretation.