Circular representative volume elements for strain localization problems

Pieter Hofman*, Lu Ke, Frans P. van der Meer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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A common choice for multiscale modeling of the mechanical response of composites is to use periodic boundary conditions (PBCs) on square and cubical representative volume elements (RVEs). However, when strain localization occurs in the micromodel, these PBCs are unable to reproduce the transverse isotropy of composite materials with a random microstructure. Existing remedies to alleviate this issue have been proposed in literature by either rotating or shifting the periodicity constraints. However, this results in a mismatch of the microstructure on opposing edges which may prevent cracks to cross the boundary and consequently limit the supported localization angles. Furthermore, in absence of a strategy that ensures a single localization band to arise in a fracturing RVE, it is difficult to formulate a generic expression for the length scale parameter that is used to regulate the energy dissipation, which plays an important role in obtaining RVE-size objective results. As an alternative to square (or cubical) RVEs, circular (or spherical) RVEs have been proposed in literature since they provide a response which is independent of the orientation due to shape of the RVE. However, it is shown in this work that the existing formulation with straightforward application of PBCs on a circular RVE fails to predict the correct softening behavior, due to over-constraining when cracks reach the boundary. Therefore, a new formulation of PBCs on a circular RVE is proposed, which allows for a single fully developed localization band under arbitrary angle. The performance of the new formulation is tested with a series of simulations where macroscopic strains are imposed under varying orientations. It is demonstrated that the circular RVE with the new formulation of PBCs successfully predicts a transversely isotropic response with full softening without the issue of mismatching microstructure as with previously developed remedies for the square RVE. In addition, it is shown that the length scale parameter is well-defined and independent of the orientation of the circular RVE.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)784-807
Number of pages24
JournalInternational Journal for Numerical Methods in Engineering
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • composite materials
  • multiscale modeling
  • periodic boundary conditions
  • representative volume elements
  • strain localization
  • transverse isotropy


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