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Advanced Structures & Materials

Annual Plan

Tire–mud Interaction Modeled Using Smoothed Particle Hydrodynamics and Finite Element

Project Team

Principal Investigator

Corina Sandu, Mechanical Engineering, Virginia Tech Alba Yerro-Colom, Virginia Tech


Denise Rizzo, Katherine Sebeck, U.S. Army GVSC


Vinita Kumari, Madaline Mushaben Buth, John Deere


Varsha Swamy, Rashna Pandit, Destiny Mason, Virginia Tech

Project Summary

Project begins 2022.

The mobility of vehicles in adverse, off-road environments is a challenge. This project tackles one such challenging condition: the mobility of ground vehicles on wet or saturated cohesive soils (mud). Military vehicles, agricultural vehicles, and earthmoving vehicles operate in such hostile conditions very often. We propose to create an accurate terrain model for what is commonly called mud, to account for the effect of the water in the pores of such cohesive fine grain soils, clays in particular. Clay is a cohesive, plastic material with strain-rate effects. The strength of clay in wet conditions might extremely decrease when subjected to rapid shear loading, leading to large deformations and eventually leading to liquid-like behavior and hydroplaning. This project proposes to study tire– mud interaction by numerical modeling using Smoothed Particle Hydrodynamics and Finite Element Analysis (SPH- FEA) techniques. Small-scale laboratory testing will be performed for the characterization of the clay-tire interface, as well as the clay material in dynamic undrained and drained conditions. The results of the advanced numerical model will be experimentally validated on a full-scale tires using the Terramechanics Rig at Virginia Tech.

The fundamental research questions are a) How would we model this saturated cohesive soil? b) What is the effect of the water in the pores? c) How would the contact be modeled at the tire-mud interface? d) What would happen to the terrain and what will the effect be if there is more than one pass over the same surface? e) What is the state of the tire after traversing for some time in the mud? When will mud adhere to the tire, and what will the effect of this phenomenon be on the tire performance? What would be the state of the terrain? f) When would the tire completely lose traction? How can a tire regain traction in such conditions?


  • Swamy, V.S., Pandit, R., Yerro-Colom, A., Sandu, C., Castellanos, B, Rizzo, D., and Sebeck, K. – “Behavior of Wet Clay Due to Off-Road Traffic Loading”, Paper no. 283, Proc. of The 17th European Automotive Congress and The 32nd SIAR International Congress of Automotive and Transport Engineering, Oct. 26-28, 2022, Timisoara, Romania.
  • Swamy, V.S., Pandit, R., Yerro-Colom, A., Sandu, C., Rizzo,D., and Sebeck, K. – “A review of modeling and validation techniques for Tire-Deformable soil interactions”, Paper no. 7018, Proc. of The 11th Asia-Pacific International Conf. of the ISTVS, Sept. 26-28, Harbin, China. (Best Student Paper Award)

Publications from prior work closely related to this project:

  • He, R., Sandu, C., Shenvi, M.N., Mousavi, H., Carrilo, J., and Osorio, J.E. – “Laboratory Experimental Study of Tire Tractive Performance on Soft Soil: Towing Mode, Traction Mode, and Multi-Pass Effect”, J. of Terramechanics, Vol. 95, pp. 33-58,, June 2021.
  • He, R., Sandu, C., Shenvi, M.N., Mousavi, H., Braun, K., Kruger, R., and Els, S.P. – “Updated Standards of International Society for Terrain-Vehicle Systems”, J. of Terramechanics, Vol. 91, pp. 185-231,, Oct. 2020.
  • Sandu, C., Taheri, Sh., Taheri, S., and Gorsich, D. – “Hybrid Soft Soil Tire Model (HSSTM). Part I: Tire Material and Structure Modeling”, J. of Terramechanics, Vol. 86, pp. 1-13,, Dec. 2019. (ARC funded)
  • Sandu, C., Taheri, Sh., Taheri, S., and Gorsich, D. – “Hybrid Soft Soil Tire Model (HSSTM). Part II: Tire-Terrain Interaction”, J. of Terramechanics, Vol. 86, pp. 15-29,, Dec. 2019. (ARC funded)
  • Xu, X., Yerro, A., Soga, K., Li, M., Jin, F. — “Numerical Modelling and Simulation of the Wheel Rotation Problems by the Material Point Method”, In: Barla M., Di Donna A., Sterpi D. (eds) Challenges and Innovations in Geomechanics. IACMAG 2021. Lecture Notes in Civil Engineering, vol 125. Springer, Cham, 2021.
  • Zambrano-Cruzatty, L., Yerro, A. — “Numerical Simulation of a Free Fall Penetrometer Deployment Using the Material Point Method”, Soils and Foundations 60(3):668-682, DOI:10.1016/j.sandf.2020.04.002, 2020.