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GPU-Based Simulation of Dynamic Characteristics of Ballasted Railway Track with Coupled Discrete-Finite Element Method

Xu Li1, Ying Yan2, Shuai Shao3, Shunying Ji1,*
1 State Key Laboratory of Structural Analysis for Industrial Equipment, Dalian University of Technology, Dalian, 116023, China
2 School of Civil Engineering, Dalian Jiaotong University, Dalian, 116028, China
3 Transportation Institute, Inner Mongolia University, Hohhot, 010070, China
* Corresponding Author: Shunying Ji. Email:

Computer Modeling in Engineering & Sciences 2021, 126(2), 645-671.

Received 17 August 2020; Accepted 04 November 2020; Issue published 21 January 2021


Considering the interaction between a sleeper, ballast layer, and substructure, a three-dimensional coupled discrete-finite element method for a ballasted railway track is proposed in this study. Ballast granules with irregular shapes are constructed using a clump model using the discrete element method. Meanwhile, concrete sleepers, embankments, and foundations are modelled using 20-node hexahedron solid elements using the finite element method. To improve computational efficiency, a GPU-based (Graphics Processing Unit) parallel framework is applied in the discrete element simulation. Additionally, an algorithm containing contact search and transfer parameters at the contact interface of discrete particles and finite elements is developed in the GPU parallel environment accordingly. A benchmark case is selected to verify the accuracy of the coupling algorithm. The dynamic response of the ballasted rail track is analysed under different train speeds and loads. Meanwhile, the dynamic stress on the substructure surface obtained by the established DEM-FEM model is compared with the in situ experimental results. Finally, stress and displacement contours in the cross-section of the model are constructed to further visualise the response of the ballasted railway. This proposed coupling model can provide important insights into high-performance coupling algorithms and the dynamic characteristics of full scale ballasted rail tracks.


Ballasted track; coupled discrete element-finite element method; GPU parallel algorithm; dynamic characteristics

Cite This Article

Li, X., Yan, Y., Shao, S., Ji, S. (2021). GPU-Based Simulation of Dynamic Characteristics of Ballasted Railway Track with Coupled Discrete-Finite Element Method. CMES-Computer Modeling in Engineering & Sciences, 126(2), 645–671.


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License , which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
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