Representative volume elements for matrix-inclusion composites -- a computational study on periodizing the ensemble

Matti Schneider, Marc Josien, Felix Otto

We investigate volume-element sampling strategies for the stochastic homogenization of particle-reinforced composites and show, via computational experiments, that an improper treatment of particles intersecting the boundary of the computational cell may affect the accuracy of the computed effective properties. Motivated by recent results on a superior convergence rate of the systematic error for periodized ensembles compared to taking snapshots of ensembles, we conduct computational experiments for microstructures with circular, spherical and cylindrical inclusions and monitor the systematic errors in the effective thermal conductivity for snapshots of ensembles compared to working with microstructures sampled from periodized ensembles. We observe that the standard deviation of the apparent properties computed on microstructures sampled from the periodized ensembles decays at the scaling expected from the central limit theorem. In contrast, the standard deviation for the snapshot ensembles shows an inferior decay rate at high filler content. The latter effect is caused by additional long-range correlations that necessarily appear in particle-reinforced composites at high, industrially relevant, volume fractions. Periodized ensembles, however, appear to be less affected by these correlations. Our findings provide guidelines for working with digital volume images of material microstructures and the design of representative volume elements for computational homogenization.

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