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Particuology 16 (2014) 4153

Contents lists available at ScienceDirect

Particuology
journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/partic

Investigation into improving the efciency and accuracy


of CFD/DEM simulations
Falah Alobaid , Nabil Baraki, Bernd Epple
TU Darmstadt, Energiesysteme und Energietechnik, Petersenstrasse 30, 64287 Darmstadt, Germany

a r t i c l e

i n f o

Article history:
Received 7 July 2013
Received in revised form 1 November 2013
Accepted 6 November 2013
Keywords:
Computational uid dynamics
Discrete element method
Stiffness coefcient
Fluid time step
Parallelization

a b s t r a c t
The EulerLagrange approach combined with a discrete element method has frequently been applied
to elucidate the hydrodynamic behavior of dense uidsolid ows in uidized beds. In this work, the
efciency and accuracy of this model are investigated. Parameter studies are performed; in these studies,
the stiffness coefcient, the uid time step and the processor number are varied under conditions with
different numbers of particles and different particle diameters. The obtained results are compared with
measurements to derive the optimum parameters for CFD/DEM simulations. The results suggest that
the application of higher stiffness coefcients slightly improves the simulation accuracy. However, the
average computing time increases exponentially. At larger uid time steps, the results show that the
average computation time is independent of the applied uid time step whereas the simulation accuracy
decreases greatly with increasing the uid time step. The use of smaller time steps leads to negligible
improvements in the simulation accuracy but results in an exponential rise in the average computing time.
The parallelization accelerates the DEM simulations if the critical number for the domain decomposition
is not reached. Above this number, the performance is no longer proportional to the number of processors.
The critical number for the domain decomposition depends on the number of particles. An increase in
solid contents results in a shift of the critical decomposition number to higher numbers of CPUs.
2014 Published by Elsevier B.V. on behalf of Chinese Society of Particuology and Institute of Process
Engineering, Chinese Academy of Sciences.

1. Introduction
In several industrial applications, such as uidized beds,
gassolid ow plays an important role. A comprehensive understanding of this ow has been the subject of theoretical and
experimental research for many decades and is crucial for enhancements of current systems. Generally, the design of equipment,
including dense gassolid ow is based on experimental studies.
An alternative complement to complex and costly experiments is
enabled by numerical simulations. Basically, there are two different
approaches to representation of the gassolid ow: the continuum
and the discrete particle models. In the rst model, also known
as the EulerEuler method, each phase is treated as a continuum
and is mathematically calculated by solving the NavierStokes
equations. In contrast, the EulerLagrange method combines
continuum descriptions of the uid phase with the Lagrange

Abbreviations: CFD, computational uid dynamics; DEM, discrete element


method; CPU, central processing unit; SIMPLEC, semi-implicit method for pressurelinked equations consistent; MPI, message passing interface.
Corresponding author. Tel.: +49 (0) 6151/16 6691; fax: +49 (0) 6151/16 6585.
E-mail address: falah.alobaid@est.tu-darmstadt.de (F. Alobaid).

representation based on Newtons transport equations of the


dispersed phase. In the EulerEuler approach, the particleparticle
and particlewall collisions are merely considered with the aid
of additional model assumptions. In contrast, collision detection
between the particleparticle/wall in the EulerLagrange method
can be stochastically modeled or deterministically detected.
For the EulerLagrange simulations with deterministic collision
detection, two models are available, namely the hard sphere and
the soft sphere model. In the rst approach, single binary collisions
are considered to be instantaneous processes; this assumption restricts the application of this method to dilute systems
(Hoomans, Kuipers, Briels, & van Swaaij, 1996). In the so-called
soft sphere model, also known as the discrete element method
(DEM), the particles can overlap with each other or penetrate into
the wall. Depending on the penetration depth, a contact force is
determined and results in a change in the motions of the particles.
The rst CFD/DEM model was developed by Cundall and Strack
(1979) and has been successfully employed by Tsuji, Kawaguchi,
and Tanaka (1993) to simulate the hydrodynamic behavior of dense
gassolid ow in a laboratory-scale uidized bed. Since that time,
signicant advances have been achieved, and several studies have
contributed to this eld (summarized by Deen, Van Sint Annaland,
Van der Hoef, and Kuipers (2007) and Zhu, Zhou, Yang, and Yu

1674-2001/$ see front matter 2014 Published by Elsevier B.V. on behalf of Chinese Society of Particuology and Institute of Process Engineering, Chinese Academy of Sciences.

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.partic.2013.11.004

42

F. Alobaid et al. / Particuology 16 (2014) 4153

Nomenclature
D
d
F
f
g
h
I
k
m
N

n
p
r
r
S
T
T
T
t
t

u
V







w

time constant (s1 )


diameter (m)
force (N)
force per volume (N/m3 )
standard gravity (9.81 m/s2 )
height (m)
moment of inertia (kg m2 )
stiffness coefcient (N/m)
mass (kg)
number of particles
normal unit vector
pressure (N/m2 )
radius (m)
position vector (m)
surface (m2 )
moment of a torque (N m)
average computing time (s)
stress tensor for Newtonian uids (N/m2 )
tangential unit vector
time (s)
velocity (m/s)
volume (m3 )
restitution coefcient in tangential direction or
resistance coefcient (kg/(m3 s))
depth of penetration (m)
density (kg/m3 )
dynamic viscosity (N s/m2 ), or friction coefcient
time constant (s1 )
damping parameter (N s/m)
porosity
restitution coefcient in normal direction
rotational velocity (rad/s)

Subscripts and superscripts


buoyancy
Buo
Con
contact
CV
control volume
D
dimensional or depth
damping
Dam
Dra
drag
Ela
elastic
uid
f
g
gas
Gra
gravitational
component or particle index
i,k
Mag
Magnus
normal component
n
P
particle
Pre
pressure
Reynolds number
Re
res
resulted
s
solid
Saffman
Saf
t
tangential component
W
wall or width

(2008)). Some of these studies have concentrated on comparisons of the CFD/DEM simulations with experiments and with the
EulerEuler approach (among others: Chiesa, Mathiesen, Melheim,
& Halvorsen, 2005; Link, 2006; Alobaid & Epple, 2013). The simulation results for the CFD/DEM model show signicantly better

agreement with the measurements than do the results for the continuum model. However, numerical simulations performed with
the DEM model are computationally expensive. Goetz (2006) and
Tsuji, Yabumoto, and Tanaka (2008) presented the possibility of
parallelizing the CFD/DEM simulation, where the computational
domain is divided into several sub-blocks (less than 20 sub-blocks).
Despite the importance of increasing the processor number to the
CFD/DEM efciency, only a few studies, including the cited works,
have discussed this matter for different solid loadings in the uidized bed simulation.
Di Renzo and Di Maio (2004) reported in their DEM study that
the stiffness coefcient is a crucial parameter for obtaining correct physical results. The proposed values vary between 105 and
109 N/m and depend greatly on the material pairing. Stiffness coefcients with a high order of magnitude require very small time
steps, which are difcult to achieve with the performance of existing computers. Therefore, the stiffness coefcients are set to be
two to three orders of magnitude smaller than the values proposed
by Di Renzo. A stiffness coefcient of 800 N/m is recommended
by Tsuji et al. (1993); this value was also used by several other
authors and gave acceptable nal results. However, the proposed
value of 800 N/m causes a normal penetration depth of up to 74
times the particle diameter (Di Renzo & Di Maio, 2004). The reason
that a stiffness coefcient below 103 N/m can partly show realistic
macroscopic results is already explained in detail by Di Maio and
Di Renzo (2004). Moreno-Atanasio, Xu, and Ghadiri (2007) investigated two values of the stiffness coefcients (50 and 50 103 N/m)
and concluded that the value of the stiffness coefcient inuenced
the uidization behavior. In their study, a constant number of particles and a constant particle diameter are analyzed. In this work, the
inuence of variation in the stiffness coefcient on the CFD/DEM
efciency and accuracy is investigated for different numbers of
particles and particle diameters.
To calculate the time-dependent motion of the solid and uid
phases, different time steps are applied in the CFD/DEM simulations (Goetz, 2006; Epple, Leithner, Linzer, & Walter, 2012). The
uid time step, which is used to solve the uid balance equations,
can be selected arbitrarily and remains constant during the calculation. In contrast, the size of the particle time step is determined
by the maximum allowed penetration depth and is also assumed to
be constant. For identical simulation periods, it is assumed that an
increase in the uid time step leads to acceleration of the simulation. Contrary to expectations, it is demonstrated in this study that
this relationship is not necessarily correct for the CFD/DEM model.
In the present work, parameter studies are performed to understand the inuence of variations in the stiffness coefcient, the
uid time step and the processor number (up to 36) on the efciency and accuracy of the CFD/DEM simulation for the uidized
bed. The obtained results are compared with the measurements
(for different mass ow rates) to derive the optimum CFD/DEM simulation parameters. To generalize the results, sets of simulations
with varying numbers of particles and diameters are performed.
2. Mathematical modeling
The employed program, DEMEST, is based on the DEM
code developed by Goetz (2006) and by Alobaid, Strhle, and
Epple (2013). The program combines classical computational uid
dynamics to calculate the uid phase with a discrete particle
method to describe the solid phase. Validation of the DEMEST program was performed with the aid of a test rig model of a uidized
bed (Alobaid & Epple, 2013). The good agreement between the simulation results and the experimental data attests to the ability of the
DEMEST code to describe with high accuracy the complex behavior
of dense uidsolid ow in a uidized bed.

F. Alobaid et al. / Particuology 16 (2014) 4153

2.1. Calculation of the uid phase


The balance equations for ow of a single gas should be extended
to calculate the uid phase in a gassolid ow. For incompressible
ows, equations for uid motion are:
(f )

+ (f
u f ) = 0,
tf

where f represents the porosity, which is dened as the ratio of


the gas volume to the entire cell volume. The symbols and f are

the velocity and the density of gas, p denotes the pressure,


g is the

gravitational acceleration, and Tf and f Pf are the stress tensor


for Newtonian uids and the volumetric force of the interaction
between the solid and uid phases, respectively.
2.2. Calculation of the solid phase
The translational and rotational motions of the solid phase are
calculated by integration of Newtons equations of motion:


d
uP
=
mP
Fi = FGra + FBuo + FDra + FPre + FSaf + FMag
dt
   


aerodynamic surface forcesFfP

P
dw
n
t
t
= TP = rP FCon
+ FCon
+ FCon
, IP
,
dt
  

where
u P and
w P are the translational and rotational velocity
of the particle, mP and IP represent the mass and the moment of

inertia of the particle, and T P and Fi denote the moment and the
forces acting on the particle. These forces are classied as volume,
aerodynamic, and contact forces. The volume forces are the gravitational force FGra and the buoyancy force FBuo , which counteracts
the weight. The aerodynamic forces result from the interactions
between the uid and the particles, whereas the contact forces
result from the interactions between the particles themselves and
the walls. The aerodynamic forces primarily depend on the relative velocities of the uid and solid phases and can lead to abrupt
changes in the particle trajectories. In this study, the aerodynamic

surface forces considered are the drag F Dra , pressure F Pre , Saffman

F Saf , and Magnus F Mag forces. Further information regarding the


calculation of aerodynamic forces can be found in Fan and Zhu
(1998) or Paschedag (2004), for example.
The motions of particles are also inuenced by the contact forces
that act between particles and between particles and the wall.
The contact force is particularly relevant in dense gassolid ows.
In this work, a deterministic collision detection model (DEM) is
applied. In the DEM model, the particles can overlap each other or
penetrate the wall. Depending on the penetration depth, the contact force can be modeled with a spring-damper-slider system. The
resulting contact force on a particle i is obtained by summing all
the normal and tangential contact forces that simultaneously act
between particle i and the other particles and between particle i
and the walls:
k=N


n
t
(FCon,ik
+ FCon,ik
).

n
= mij
FCon,ij

n
du
ij

 ij n u
 nij ,
= kn n n

(2.4)

k=1
k=
/ i
The index N represents the number of collision partners, i.e.,
particles and walls, that are in contact with particle i. Based on the

(2.5)

   

dt

F n

F n

Ela

Dam

where kn is the normal stiffness coefcient, n is the normal coefcient of damping, mij is the reduced mass (effective mass), and n
 n represent the displacement and the relative velocity in the
and u
ij
normal direction. The normal stiffness coefcient depends on the
properties of collision partners and is calculated from:


kn =

1
ij

1.5
with ij =

9 ri + rj
64 ri rj

1 vj
1 vi
+
Gi
Gj

2
.

(2.6)

The shear modulus G, which describes the linear elastic deformation of a body under a shear stress, and Poissons ratio , which
enables calculation of the transverse contraction of the body, are
material properties and can be measured experimentally.
The damping parameter in the normal direction, which represents the dissipation of energy during an inelastic collision, is
determined from the following expression:

 =

Dam
n

mij kn (n ),

mij kn (n ),

for
n =
/ 0

for
n = 0

(2.7)

The empirical constant Dam (


n ) is calculated by:

(2.3)

Contact forces

res
FCon,i
=

VoigtKelvin model, the normal contact force results from the sum
n and the damping force F
 n and is described
of the elastic force FEla
Dam
by the differential equation of a spring-damper system:

(2.1)

(f f
u f)

u f
u f ) = (f Tf ) f p + f f
g f Pf ,
+ (f f
tf
(2.2)

Volume forces

43

2 ln
n

Dam (
n ) =

2 + ln2
n

for
n =
/ 0,

(2.8)

where
n denotes the coefcient of restitution in the normal direction; this coefcient is dened to be the ratio of the normal relative
velocities at the contact point before (index (0)) and after contact:

|
u ij |

=
=
n(0)

|u
|
n

h
h(0)

ij

(2.9)

The coefcient of restitution


n can be determined experimentally.
Modeling of the resulting tangential contact force is based on
the spring-damper-slider system, in which the tangential contact
force is assumed to be either a static or a sliding force in this study.
Selection of the friction force is given by the following differential
equation:

t
= mij
FCon,ij

t
du
ij
dt

t t
t
t
t
k t u

 ij , for |FStatic | |FSlide |

 

F t
t

 Ela  FDam
t

F
Static

n
t
t


|FCon,ij
|tij , for |FStatic
| > |FSlide
|

dyn





(2.10)

F

Slide

where Dyn denotes the dynamic friction coefcient, and kt and t


represent the stiffness coefcient and the damping parameter in
the tangential direction, respectively. The damping parameter in
the tangential direction t is dened by the expression:

t)

m kt t , for t =

(
/ 0
Dam
7 ij
t =
.


b
t
2
mij k (t ) , for t = 0
7

(2.11)

44

F. Alobaid et al. / Particuology 16 (2014) 4153

The empirical constant Dam (t ) is a function of the restitution


coefcient in the tangential direction t and can be calculated by:
Dam (t ) =

2 ln t
2 + ln2 t

for t =
/ 0.

(2.12)

The dynamic friction coefcient Dyn and the restitution coefcient in the tangential direction t are obtained from experiments
that were carried out by Kharaz, Gorham, and Salman (2001), for
example, whereas the tangential stiffness coefcient kt is determined with Eq. (2.21).
2.3. Fluidparticle interaction
Modeling of the uid phase in the gassolid ow requires extension of the conservation equations for single-phase ow, because
the control volume of the computational domain consists of different uid and solid volume fractions. In this context, the porosity

and the momentum transfer should be dened (f , f Pf ) for each


uid cell in terms of existing particles and their velocities to solve
the conservation equations for the uid phase (Eqs. (2.1) and (2.2)).
The most accurate, but also the most complex, porosity calculacan be performed by equation from Hoomans
tion in a uid cell CV
f
et al. (1996):
CV
= 1 CV
s =1
f

1
V CV

CV
fP,i
VP,i ,

fPf

N CV

(2.15)

i=1

where NCV represents the number of particles in the uid cell,


 f is the uid velocity of the considered control volume, and u
i
u
is the velocity of particle i in the control volume. The symbol
denotes the inter-phase momentum transfer coefcient (the resistance coefcient). The resistance coefcient can be modeled with
different approaches. The model can only be applied to an area with
dened porosity and particle Reynolds number. Therefore, selection of a model requires knowledge of the porosity and the particle
Reynolds number in each control volume. Various models can be
found in the literature to determine the resistance coefcient; for
example, see Deen et al. (2007) and Epple et al. (2012). In this work,
the Koch and Hill model (Hill, Koch, & Ladd, 2001) is applied:
Koch & Hill =

f

dP2

(1 f )2
+ B(1 f )ReP
f

ReP =


,

for ReP > 40,


(2.16)

f u
 P |dP
f f |u
,
f

(2.17)

and coefcients:

3
135

(1 f ) ln(1 f ) + 16.14(1 f )
3 1 + (1 f ) 2 +

18

64
2
f

, for f 0.6
2
3
(1 f )

with particle Reynolds number:

where VCV is the volume of the uid cell and VP,i denotes the volCV indicates the proportion of the
ume of the particle i. The value fP,i
particle volume that exists in the control volume. The momentum
transfer corresponds to the impact of the solid on the uid phase

A=


F
f u
 i ) ,
= Pf
=
(u
V CV

(2.13)

i CV

180, for f < 0.6

Scheme 3 can overcome the above problems associated with


Schemes 1 and 2 (Zhou, Kuang, Chu, & Yu, 2010). In the present
work, a monodispersed system is investigated, so Eq. (2.14) can be
simplied to:

,
(2.18)

1 + 0.681(1 f ) 8.48(1 f ) + 8.16(1 f )

B = 0.6057(1 f )2 + 1.908(1 f )2f + 0.2093


.
f
and vice versa. According to Feng and Yu (2004) and Zhu et al.
(2008), the momentum interaction between the uid and the solid
phase can be performed in three different ways. In the rst scheme,
the force transferred from the uid to the solid phase is calculated
separately for each particle based on the particles velocity whereas
the force transferred from the particles to the uid phase is determined with a local arithmetic average. This scheme was primarily
used in the early development of inter-phase coupling because
compliance with the third Newtons axiom is not guaranteed. In
the second scheme, the force transferred from the particles to the
uid phase is determined by a local average, as in the rst scheme.
Afterwards, the resultant force is distributed among the particles
located in the control volume (uniformly for monodispersed systems and non-uniformly for polydispersed systems). Although the
second scheme guarantees the third Newtons axiom, this scheme
is inaccurate from a physical perspective. In the third scheme, the
force of the uid acting on the individual particles is calculated
according to Scheme 1 whereas the force of the particles acting on
the uid phase is determined from Link (2006):

fPf

 V
1
i
f u
 i ) .
(u
= CV
V
(1 CV )
N CV

i=1

(2.14)

 P and dP , respectively, represent the average parThe symbols u


ticle velocity and the particle diameter (monodispersed) or the
equivalent particle diameter (polydispersed) in the control volume
considered.
2.4. Calculation of the particle time step
To calculate the time-dependent motion of the particle and uid
phases, different time steps are used in the CFD/DEM simulation,
namely the uid and the particle time steps. The size of the uid
time step can be selected arbitrarily and remains constant during
the calculation. The particle time step is also assumed to be constant in the DEM model. Generally, the uid time step is chosen
to be large and thus is divided into several constant particle time
steps. However, the size of the particle time step must be selected
so that each collision is registered in time. Regardless of the relative velocity of the particles, collision partners should not penetrate
deeply into each other before the collision is detected and the corresponding contact forces counteract the particles movements. Large
particle time steps cause great penetration depths that may lead to
unrealistic contact forces and consequently lead to errors in the
energy balance. To detect the collision at the right time, neither
collision partner should travel more than the dened path length
within the particle time step. The normal particle time step that

F. Alobaid et al. / Particuology 16 (2014) 4153

covers the penetration depth n is given by the expression from


Goetz (2006):
n =

  Dn 

1
2

(n ) + (Dn )2

exp

n

arctan

 n 
Dn

(2.19)
kn (Eq. (2.6))
kt (Eq. (2.21))

with the normal time constant n :

 =

kn
n
(Dn )2 with Dn =
.
mij
2mij

kn

7
2

(4 2Dam (
n ))
.
(4 2Dam (t ))

(2.21)

The normal stiffness coefcient kn is dened by Eq. (2.6), while


the calculation of the tangential stiffness coefcient is performed
with Eq. (2.21). The previously described approach for calculating the normal and tangential stiffness coefcients is based on
the material properties of the collision partners and provides high
values (105 109 N/m). Stiffness coefcients with high orders of
magnitude require a very small particle time step, which is performed with difculty by currently available computers. The use
of smaller stiffness coefcients allows an increased value of the
particle time step, resulting in the reduced computing effort. At
high relative velocities, there is a risk of unrealistic penetrations
between the collision partners. To obtain the minimal stiffness
coefcient that prevents the unphysical penetration between particle and particle and particle and wall, an extra condition must be
formulated. By denition, a penetration is unrealistic if the maximum penetration depth is greater than the smallest particle radius.
Under this condition (nmax rP,min ), a minimal normal stiffness
coefcient is derived:
n
kmin
=

4 rP3
 nij,max |2
P |u
3 (n )2
max

exp

2Dam

4 2Dam

arctan

Particle diameters (mm)


1

2.5

3.5

7.8 108
3.1 109

1.2 109
4.9 109

1.47 109
5.8 109

(2.20)

Similarly, the tangential particle time step can be determined


from the tangential penetration depth t . To ensure conservation
of energy, the tangential and normal particle time steps should be
identical (Link, 2006). With the aid of Eqs. (2.7) and (2.11), this
requirement leads to the following correlation between kn and kt :
kt

Table 1
The calculated realistic normal and tangential stiffness coefcients.
Stiffness coefcients (N/m)

45

4 2Dam
Dam


,

(2.22)

n
where the maximum relative velocity u
and the maximum
ij,max
penetration depth nmax rP,min must be dened before the simulation is begun.

3. Numerical grids
In this study, different types of grids are generated for accurate
and efcient simulations of dense gassolid ow with the CFD/DEM
model.
Fine uid grid: This grid is used to calculate the physical quantities
of the uid phase.
Particle grid: This grid is used to compute the particle phase. This
grid allows the uid grid resolution to be varied independently
of the particle size (Alobaid et al., 2013). A geometric allocation
between uid and particle grids is necessary to enable data transfer from the uid to the particle and vice versa.
Particle search grid: Application of the particle search grid accelerates the collision detection process. Here, the problem domain
is divided into nite cells containing indexed particles. A particle
may only come in contact with particles in its own cell or with
those in its directly neighboring cells. By neglecting any further

collisions with particles that are in far cells, the computation time
is reduced (Epple et al., 2012).
4. Results and discussion
In the following sections, the efciency and accuracy of the
CFD/DEM modeling are investigated using various parameters of
stiffness coefcient, uid time step, and processor number for
different numbers of particles and different particle diameters. Indepth analysis is performed with equations provided above and
through comparison with measurements for different mass ow
rates to understand the constraints in selecting the three parameters.
4.1. Test rig and numerical model
The test rig model of the uidized bed has a height of 50 cm,
a width of 15 cm, and a depth of 2 cm. While air is supplied at
the inlet through a centrally placed nozzle (1 cm (W) 2 cm (D)),
the outlet is completely open (15 cm (W) 2 cm (D)) (see Fig. 1).
The air ows upward through the nozzle in the bed, causing the
glass beads to be suspended. The minimum supercial uidization
velocity of the solid is equal to 1.12 m/s. The particle ow of the uidized bed is recorded with a high-speed camera. Using pressure
sensors (at heights of p1 = 2 cm, p2 = 12 cm, p3 = 22 cm, p4 = 40 cm),
the pressure change in the bed is also measured. Two different
operating conditions, namely high mass ow rate (0.006 kg/s) and
low mass ow rate (0.005 kg/s) are explored. The simulations are
performed with the DEMEST code. The forces considered on the
particles are gravitational, buoyancy, drag, pressure, Saffman, Magnus, and contact forces. In addition to the ne uid grid, three
increasingly coarse multi-grids are generated. The computation of
the particle phase is performed on the particle grid. Deterministic
detection of particleparticle/wall collisions is achieved with the
particle search grid. In Appendices A and B, the numerical grids, the
simulation parameters and the applied boundary conditions for the
uid and solid phases are presented. The simulations are performed
by ve computers with eight core processors (Intel i7 processors)
connected through a gigabit network. Visualization of the calculated results is achieved by separate codes that are programmed in
Matlab .
4.2. Variation of the stiffness coefcient
According to Di Renzo and Di Maio (2004, 2005), different paths
for normal and tangential displacements can be applied to the
DEM simulations: (1) normal displacement varies, and tangential
displacement is zero; (2) normal displacement is constant, and
tangential displacement varies; (3) normal and tangential displacements vary. The third method requires knowledge of the stiffness
coefcients in the normal and tangential directions. The normal and
tangential stiffness coefcients can be dened from the properties
of the collision partners. In this work, the normal and tangential
displacements can be varied and are dened with Eqs. (2.6) and
(2.21) (Link, 2006). The normal and tangential stiffness coefcients
are calculated from the glass material properties (see Table 1) for

46

F. Alobaid et al. / Particuology 16 (2014) 4153

Fig. 1. Test rig model of the uidized bed.

spherical particles with different diameters (1, 2.5, and 3.5 mm).
The obtained stiffness coefcients exhibit high orders of magnitude
and vary between 108 and 109 N/m depending on the diameters
of the collision partners. If the stiffness coefcients and the particle time step are dened according to Table 1 and Eq. (2.19),
respectively, the contact forces are thus determined by Eqs. (2.5)
and (2.10) with high accuracy. This high accuracy means that any
unphysical penetration between the particles and between the
particles and walls is avoided. However, application of realistic
stiffness coefcients produces a very small particle time step that is
almost not applicable because of the extreme computational effort
and the limited computer performance at present. Therefore, a
reduction in the selected stiffness coefcient should be introduced.
By decreasing the stiffness coefcient and hence increasing the particle time step, larger penetration depths can occur between the
collision partners. At sufciently high relative velocities of the colliding particles, there is a risk of unrealistic penetrations. Complete
penetration in the particlewall collisions represents the worst
case because the particles leave the computational domain and are
therefore no longer available in the subsequent time steps. Thus,
a continuous decline in the number of particles is observed during the CFD/DEM simulation. In Table 2, the penetration depth
is calculated from the stiffness coefcients for different diameters of collision partners and maximum relative velocities of 2, 5,
and 10 m/s. The use of smaller stiffness coefcients (for example,

stiffness coefcient = 103 N/m and relative velocity = 10 m/s) causes


a normal penetration depth of up to 24 times the particle diameter. The underestimation of the stiffness coefcients produces not
only unphysical penetrations but also leads to shrinkage of the
entire bed volume in the stationary case. In Fig. 2, the bed height of
36,500 spherical glass particles (monodispersed) with a diameter
of 2.5 mm is presented for different stiffness coefcients. Compared
to the experiment, a reduction in the stiffness coefcient by four
orders of magnitude (from 102 to 106 N/m) causes the entire bed
volume to decrease by approximately 10%.
To obtain the minimal normal stiffness coefcient that prevents unphysical penetration, an additional condition should be
dened. A penetration depth is unrealistic if the maximum penetration depth is greater than the particle radius (nmax > rP ). In
Table 3, the minimal normal stiffness coefcients are calculated
for different particle diameters, at diverse relative velocities of collision partners and with a maximum penetration depth (nmax = rP ).
Independent of the particle diameter, the minimal stiffness values
range between 5 104 and 5 106 N/m and depend primarily on
the relative velocity of the collision partners.
In this section, much attention is paid to the inuence of variation in the stiffness coefcient on the computation time for
different numbers of particles and diverse particle diameters (see
Table 4). For the rst simulation series, the number of particles is
set to be constant at 30,000 for different particle diameters (1, 2.5,

Table 2
The calculated penetration depths for glass collision partners with different particle diameters (1, 2.5 and 3.5 mm) and relative velocities (2, 5, and 10 m/s).
Penetration depth (mm)

Particle diameter (mm)


1

2.5

3.5

Relative velocity (m/s)

Stiffness coefcient kn
(N/m)

102
103
104
105
106
107
108
109

10

10

10

8
2.5
0.8
0.25
0.08
0.025
0.008
0.0025

20
6
2
0.6
0.2
0.06
0.02
0.006

40
12
4
1.2
0.4
0.12
0.04
0.012

31
10
3
1
0.3
0.1
0.03
0.01

79.5
25
8
2.5
0.8
0.2
0.08
0.025

160
50
16
5
1.6
0.5
0.16
0.05

52
16.5
5.2
1.6
0.5
0.16
0.05
0.016

130
41
13
4.2
1.3
0.41
0.13
0.041

260
82
26
8.2
2.6
0.82
0.26
0.082

F. Alobaid et al. / Particuology 16 (2014) 4153

47

Average computing time per time step [s]

100000
(Number of particles 30000)
1.0 mm diameter
2.5 mm diameter
3.5 mm diameter

10000

1000

100

10
1

10

10

10

10

10

10

10

10

Stiffness coefficient [N/m]


Fig. 3. Inuence of the stiffness coefcient on the average computing time at different particle diameters and for a constant number of particles.

Fig. 2. Comparison of the bed heights calculated for different stiffness coefcients
with the measurement.

and 3.5 mm) while the stiffness coefcient is varied from 101 to
108 N/m. As shown in Fig. 3, an increase in the stiffness coefcient
leads to an exponential rise in the average computing time. This
increase is evident at the order of magnitude of 103 N/m, where a
jump in the stiffness coefcient by two orders of magnitude results
in an increase of the simulation time by one order of magnitude.
The attening of the curves at stiffness coefcient values lower than
103 N/m is because a certain part of the computing time is required
for the calculation of the uid phase. This part is not a signicant
percentage for stiffness coefcients with high orders of magnitude.
However, this percentage becomes signicant at very low stiffness
coefcients. The particle diameter has a strong inuence on the
average computation time because the size of the particle time
step is a function of the particle diameter; thus, smaller particle

diameters lead to ner particle time steps for an identical stiffness


coefcient value.
In the following series of simulations, the inuence of the number of particles on the average computing time is given additional
attention. In Fig. 4, the stiffness coefcient is varied from 101 to
108 N/m while the number of particles is increased (10,000, 30,000,
and 50,000) at a constant particle diameter (2.5 mm). The obtained
curves have approximately the same behavior, but the average
computation time rises exponentially as the stiffness coefcient
increases. As expected, the average computation time increases
considerably at higher solid loadings. This result can be explained
by application of the DEM model, in which the computational effort
depends on the number of particles and the particle time step. For
identical stiffness coefcients and constant particle diameters, the
particle time step remains unaltered. As the solid loading increases,
the number of equations to be solved rises, and consequently, the
simulation time increases. From the logarithmic plot in Fig. 4, a
power function of the stiffness coefcient can be obtained for the
average computing time T:

kn (kn )

T =A
Table 3
The calculated minimal normal stiffness coefcients (Eq. (2.22)) for different particle diameters (1, 2.5 and 3.5 mm), relative velocities (10, 5 and 2 m/s) and at the
maximum penetration depth nmax = rP .

Constant parameters

Grids

(3.1)

where the symbol A represents the slope of the curve.


To investigate the inuence of the stiffness coefcient on the
simulation accuracy, a numerical model of the quasi-2D uidized
bed (see Fig. 1) is simulated and the obtained results are compared

10
5
2

2.5

3.5

5.1 106
6.3 105
4.1 104

5.1 106
6.3 105
4.1 104

5.1 106
6.3 105
4.1 104

Particle number
Particle diameter (mm)

101 , 102 , 103 , 104 , 105 ,


106 , 107 , 108
10,000, 30,000, 50,000
1, 2.5, 3.5

Fluid time step (ms)


Number of time steps
Number of decompositions

10
10
7

Fluid multi-grid
Particle grid

Deactivated
Deactivated

Stiffness coefcient (N/m)

Average computing time per time step [s]

100000
1

Table 4
Simulation parameters used to investigate effect of stiffness coefcient on computational time at different particle numbers and diameters.
Variable parameters

Particle diameter (mm)

Minimal normal stiffness


n
(N/m)
coefcient kmin

unmax (m/s)

1/2

(Particle diameter: 2.5 mm)


10000 particles
30000 particles

10000

50000 particles

1000

100

10
1

10

10

10

10

10

10

10

10

Stiffness coefficient [N/m]


Fig. 4. Inuence of the stiffness coefcient on the average computing time at different solid loadings and for a constant particle diameter.

48

F. Alobaid et al. / Particuology 16 (2014) 4153

55
36500 particles with diameter 2.5 mm
3

Exp.
45

10 N/m

Bed height [cm]

10 N/m

10 N/m

10 N/m
6

10 N/m

35

25

15
0

50

100

150

200

250

300

350

400

450

500

Time [ms]
Fig. 5. Inuence of the variation in the stiffness coefcient on the CFD/DEM simulation accuracy at air mass ow rate of 0.006 kg/s.

with the measured data. For the simulation, 36,500 identical glass
particles with a diameter of 2.5 mm are used. The uid time step is
selected to be 2 ms, and the remaining numerical parameters can
be extracted from Appendix A. The grid resolutions for the numerical models are presented in Appendix C. Note that the simulation
parameters, the applied boundary conditions and the grid resolutions are identical for all the simulations. In Figs. 5 and 6, the
simulated bed heights for different stiffness coefcients are compared with the experiments over time (500 ms) for different air
mass ow rates.
The application of smaller stiffness coefcients has the benet
of low computational effort. However, the accuracy of the CFD/DEM
simulation declines. This result can be clearly for stiffness coefcient values of 102 and 103 N/m. In contrast, stiffness coefcients
with high orders of magnitude have high computation times but
result in high CFD/DEM accuracy. Moderate stiffness coefcients
(in the range between 5 104 and 5 106 N/m) show a very good
compromise between acceptable computing time and accuracy.
Although the application of stiffness coefcients with moderate
values causes normal penetration depths of up to the particle radius
(see Table 2), the simulations still show good nal results. Thus, the
coefcients with moderate values are recommended to be applicable for simulations of the uidized bed, especially because the
maximum relative velocities of collision partners in this system
are smaller than 10 m/s.

Table 5
The calculated particle time steps for glass collision partners with different particle
diameters and different stiffness coefcients.
Stiffness coefcient kn (N/m)

102
103
104
105
106
107
108
109

Particle time step (s)


Particle
diameter
(1 mm)

Particle
diameter
(2.5 mm)

Particle
diameter
(3.5 mm)

3.9 103
1.2 103
3.9 104
1.2 104
3.9 105
1.2 105
3.9 105
1.2 107

1.5 102
4.9 103
1.5 104
4.9 104
1.5 104
4.9 105
1.5 105
4.9 106

2.6 102
8.2 103
2.6 104
8.2 104
2.6 104
8.2 105
2.6 105
8.2 106

4.3. Variation of the uid time step


As mentioned previously, the uid time step can be selected
arbitrarily and is set to be constant during the simulation. Generally, the uid time step is chosen to be relatively large, so one
uid time step consists of several particle time steps (see Section 2.4). The size of the particle time step directly depends on
the applied stiffness coefcient value. In Table 5, the particle time
steps are determined for different stiffness coefcients and particle

35
36500 particles with diameter 2.5 mm
3

Exp.
30

10 N/m

Bed height [cm]

10 N/m

10 N/m

10 N/m
6

10 N/m

25

20

15
0

50

100

150

200

250

300

350

400

450

500

Time [ms]
Fig. 6. Inuence of the variation in the stiffness coefcient on the CFD/DEM simulation accuracy at air mass ow rate 0.005 kg/s.

F. Alobaid et al. / Particuology 16 (2014) 4153

Variable parameters

Constant parameters

Grids

Fluid time step (ms)

Particle number
Particle diameter (mm)

0.1, 0.3, 0.5, 1, 2, 5, 10,


15, 30, 45, 60, 75, 90,
105, 120
10,000, 30,000, 50,000
1, 2.5, 3.5

Number of time steps


Stiffness coefcient (N/m)
Number of decompositions

10
5 104
7

Fluid multi-grid
Particle grid

Deactivated
Deactivated

10000

Average computing time per time step [s]

Table 6
Simulation parameters used to investigate effect of the uid time step on computational time at different particle numbers and diameters.

49

(Particle diameter: 2.5 mm)


10000 particles
30000 particles
50000 particles

1000

100

10

diameters. The calculated particle time step decreases as the stiffness coefcient increases and the particle diameter decreases.
In this section, the inuence of the uid time step on the computation time is investigated. Here, the stiffness coefcient was set
to be a constant equal to 5 104 N/m, which represents a compromise between a realistic simulation result and an acceptable
simulation time. Although the resulting particle time step was a
constant equal to 0.7 ms, the size of the uid time step varied
between 0.1 and 120 ms. The effects of the particle diameter and
the particle number on the average computing time are also examined. The detailed simulation parameters for the following series
of simulations are listed in Table 6. The ratio of the uid to particle time steps is varied depending on the applied uid time step
and the stiffness coefcient. If higher stiffness coefcients (greater
than 5 104 N/m) are used, the resulting particle time step will
be smaller than 0.7 ms. Accordingly, the accuracy of the CFD/DEM
model will be improved and the computation time will be greatly
increased. In contrast, smaller stiffness coefcients of less than
5 104 N/m, i.e., coarser particle time steps (>0.7 ms), lead to a gain
in the simulation efciency, but the accuracy of the CFD/DEM model
decreases consequently.
It is assumed that for identical simulation durations, an increase
in the size of the uid time step accelerates the simulation. Fig. 7
shows that this relationship is not necessarily correct. An increase
in the uid time step between 15 and 120 ms does not accelerate
the CFD/DEM calculation because the ratio of the uid time step
to the particle time step (0.7 ms) is larger than one; i.e., during
one uid time step, several particle time steps must be performed.
Therefore, the computation time for calculating the particle phase
is a signicantly larger proportion of the total simulation time than
the computational effort of the uid phase. Fluid time steps smaller

0.1

10

100

Fluid time step [ms]


Fig. 8. Inuence of the uid time step on the average computing time at different
solid loadings and for a constant particle diameter (2.5 mm) [B].

than 15 ms are supposed to not cause any substantial increase in


the computation time. Finer uid time steps produce more accurate simulation results, which are aimed by practical applications.
An excessive reduction of the uid time step leads, however, to
a considerable increase in the computational effort. The question
becomes at which ratio of uid to particle time step does a reduction in the size of the uid time step not cause a signicant increase
in the computation time. If the uid time step decreases to the size
of the particle time step, the independence between the uid time
step and the computation time is no longer valid (see Fig. 8).
Consideration of the average computing time as a function of the
uid time step is not informative in terms of the efciency analysis. Therefore, the computation time per simulated millisecond is
displayed in Fig. 9 for different solid loadings and a constant particle diameter. For large uid time steps, the average computing
time per millisecond remains almost constant at approximately 8,
20, and 42 s, depending on the number of particles. An exponential
increase in the average computing time per millisecond appears
when ner uid time steps are applied. An efcient uid time step
in the range between 1 and 5 ms can be derived. A further increase
in the size of the uid time step (more than 5 ms) is not correlated
with any efciency gain; but the temporal resolution of the uid
phase goes from bad to worse. A reduction in the uid time step
from less than 5 ms to achieve a higher temporal resolution leads
to a signicant loss in the efciency because the computing time
per simulated millisecond increases exponentially. The variation

300

(Particle diameter: 2.5 mm)

(Particle diameter: 2.5 mm)


10000 particles
30000 particles
50000 particles

30000 particles
50000 particles
3000

2000

1000

simulated millisecond [s]

10000 particles

4000

Average computing time per

Average computing time per time step [s]

5000

250
200
150
100
50
0

0.1

10

100

Fluid time step [ms]


Fig. 7. Inuence of the uid time step on the average computing time at different
solid loadings and for a constant particle diameter (2.5 mm) [A].

0.1

10

100

Fluid time step [ms]


Fig. 9. Inuence of the uid time step on the average computing time per simulated
millisecond at different solid loadings and for a constant particle diameter.

50

F. Alobaid et al. / Particuology 16 (2014) 4153


Table 7
Simulation parameters used to investigate effect of the processor number on computational time at different particle numbers.

Average computing time per time step [s]

10000
(Number of particles 30000)
1.0 mm diameter
2.5 mm diameter
3.5 mm diameter

1000

100

10
0.1

100

10

Fluid time step [ms]


Fig. 10. Inuence of the uid time step on the average computing time at different
particle diameters and for a constant number of particles.

Variable parameters

Number of decompositions
Particle number

3, 5, 9, 15, 19, 23, 27, 36


10,000, 30,000, 50,000

Constant parameters

Particle diameter (mm)


Fluid time step (ms)
Number of time steps
Stiffness coefcient (N/m)

2.5
10
10
5 104

Grids

Fluid multi-grid
Particle grid

Deactivated
Deactivated

in the computing time. Fluid time steps in the range between 1


and 5 ms show a reasonable compromise between the required
accuracy and simulation efciency. Thus, these time steps are recommended for applications to simulate uidized beds independent
of the solid loading and particle diameter.
4.4. Variation of processor number

in the number of particles has almost no inuence on the efcient


size for the uid time step.
The entire series of previous simulations is performed again, but
with different particle diameters. For these calculations, the number of particles is constant and equal to 30,000, while the particle
diameters and the size of the uid time steps vary (see Fig. 10).
For a constant number of particles, the average computation time
rises considerably as the particle diameter increases. This signicant increase in the computing time results from the decrease in
the particle time step as a function of the stiffness coefcient and
the particle diameter. Because the stiffness coefcient is set to be
constant and equal to 5 104 N/m in this series of simulations, the
particle time step is then related directly to the particle diameter.
To estimate the effect of the uid time step on the CFD/DEM
accuracy, a numerical model of the quasi-2D uidized bed with
36,500 identical glass particles (diameter: 2.5 mm) is generated.
When the uid time step is varied, the simulation parameters (see
Appendix A) and the grid resolutions (Appendix C) are identical for
all simulation cases. The simulated bed heights are compared with
the experiment over the time (500 ms) for different air mass ow
rates (see Figs. 11 and 12). The application of larger uid time steps
(greater than 15 ms) has a negative impact on the CFD/DEM results
although the computational effort remains unaltered. In contrast,
ner uid time steps (less than 1 ms) lead to a negligible improvement in the CFD/DEM accuracy but cause a considerable increase

Parallel computation on multi-core processors is of great importance and presents today the most promising way to accelerate
CFD/DEM calculations. In this section, the inuence of the parallelization on the average computing time is investigated. The entire
computational domain is divided into several partitions (336), and
each sub-block is allocated to one processor. As a second variable,
the number of particles is modied. Here, the variation of particle diameter is not considered (already discussed in the previous
section). Detailed information regarding the simulation parameters and the grid resolutions are listed in Appendices A and B, and
Table 7.
In Fig. 13, the variation in the average computing time at
different solid loadings is plotted against the processor number.
The parallelization leads rst to an acceleration of the CFD/DEM
simulations. Each processor requires less computing time because
of the smaller computational sub-domains. However, the interaction between the processors increases further for larger number
of CPUs. The asynchronism between the processor cores plays
an important role in addition to the computational effort for the
data exchange to explain why the parallelized calculations run
inefciently. In this context, asynchrony means that the processors utilizations are uneven. This asynchrony can occur through
an undesired distribution of particles in the computational subdomains. The processors that are subjected to fewer processing
operations nish their calculations earlier and nally have to wait

55
36500 particles with diameter 2.5 mm
Exp.

30 ms

2 ms

60 ms

15 ms

0.5 ms

Bed height [cm]

45

35

25

15
0

50

100

150

200

250

300

350

400

450

500

Time [ms]
Fig. 11. Inuence of the uid time step on the CFD/DEM simulation accuracy at air mass ow rate of 0.006 kg/s.

F. Alobaid et al. / Particuology 16 (2014) 4153

51

35
36500 particles with diameter 2.5 mm
Exp.

30 ms

2 ms

60 ms

15 ms

0.5 ms

Bed height [cm]

30

25

20

15
0

50

100

150

200

250

300

350

400

450

500

Time [ms]
Fig. 12. Inuence of the uid time step on the CFD/DEM simulation accuracy at air mass ow rate of 0.005 kg/s.

Average computing time per time step [s]

1000
(Particle diameter: 2.5mm)
10000 particles

800

30000 particles
50000 particles

600

400

200

0
3

12

15

18

21

24

27

30

33

36

Number of processors
Fig. 13. Inuence of the processor number on the average computing time at different particle loadings and for a constant particle diameter (2.5 mm).

until other processors complete their tasks. The range, in which


the average computation time does not decrease further and
remains at a nearly constant level, extends over several processors
(1927). Further decomposition of the computational domain
(more than 27) leads to a slight increase in computing time. Hence,
acceleration of the simulation can be achieved by relative lower
number of processors. An increase in the solid loading results in an
exponential rise in the calculation time. At higher number of CPUs,

Average computing time per time step [s]

1000

800

(Particle diameter: 2.5mm)


3 CPUs
5 CPUs

19 CPUs
23 CPUs

9 CPUs

27 CPUs

15 CPUs

36 CPUs

the efciency curves have almost the same behavior. However,


the critical number of the domain decompositions depends on the
solid loading. Note that parallel computation depends critically on
the geometry of the problem. Therefore, the obtained critical number of the domain decompositions is related to this case and cannot
transfer to other applications with different boundary conditions.
Fig. 14 shows that the absolute gain in computing time resulted
from the parallelization rises sharply as the solid loading increases.
For a realistic uidized bed, in which the number of particles to be
computed is enormous, it can be assumed that the parallelization
presents a fair contribution for realizing the EulerLagrange/DEM
simulation of this facility.
5. Conclusions

600

400

200

0
10000

30000

50000

Number of particles
Fig. 14. Inuence of the particle number on the average computing time at different
processor numbers and for a constant particle diameter (2.5 mm).

In this work, the efciency and accuracy of the EulerLagrange/


DEM model were investigated with the in-house code DEMEST.
Different important parameters are varied under various solid loading conditions and particle diameters. The obtained results are
compared with measured data to derive the optimum parameters
for the EulerLagrange/DEM simulations. The application of realistic stiffness coefcients is not possible because of the exponential
increase in the computation time. Depending on the relative velocity of the collision partners, stiffness coefcient values between
5 104 and 5 106 N/m are recommended because they offer a
good compromise between efciency and accuracy. The obtained
results show that larger uid time steps (more than 5 ms) cannot

52

F. Alobaid et al. / Particuology 16 (2014) 4153

accelerate the simulation, but lead to worse temporal resolution


of the uid phase. The reduction of the uid time step size to less
than 5 ms to achieve higher resolution causes an efciency loss
and a negligible improvement in the simulation accuracy. Independent of the solid loading and the particle diameter, accurate and
efcient uid time step in the range between 1 and 5 ms is suggested based on the simulations and experiments. Parallelization
accelerates the CFD/DEM simulation if the critical number for the
domain decomposition is not exceeded. Further decomposition of
the computational domain leads to an increase in the data exchange
between the CPUs and thus to a loss in the calculation efciency.
The critical number for the domain decomposition depends on the
solid loading, and an increase in the number of particles leads to a
signicant gain in the computing time via parallelization.

Appendix A. Parameters applied to the CFD/DEM


simulations.
Fluid
parameters
(air)

Particle
parameters
(glass)

Numerical
parameters

Performance

Viscosity (Pa s)
Density (kg/m3 )
Mass ow rate (kg/s)
Fluid time step (s)

18.27 106
1.2
0.005, 0.006
Variable

Total number (particles)


Average diameter (mm)
Density (kg/m3 )
Shear modulus (GPa)
Poissons ratio ()
Restitution coefcient in
normal direction (PP) ()
Restitution coefcient in
normal direction (PW) ()
Restitution coefcient in
tangential direction (PP)
()
Restitution coefcient in
tangential direction (PW)
()
Damping parameter (PP,
PW) in normal direction
(N s/m)
Damping parameter (PW,
PW) in tangential
direction (N s/m)
Stiffness coefcient (PP)
(N/m)
Stiffness coefcient (PW)
(N/m)
Friction coefcient (PP)
()
Friction coefcient (PW)
()
Particle sub-time step (s)

Variable
Variable
2500
31
0.17
0.97

Under-relaxation factor
(velocity)
Under-relaxation factor
(pressure)
Number of iteration
velocity
Number of iteration
pressure
Turbulence of the uid
phase
Pressurevelocity coupling
Solver

PC
Simulation duration (h)

0.97
0.33

Goetz (2006)
Goetz (2006)
Kharaz et al.
(2001)
Kharaz et al.
(2001)
Kharaz et al.
(2001)

0.33

Kharaz et al.
(2001)

Calculated
with
Dam = 1
Calculated
with
Dam = 1
Variable

Eq. (2.7)

Eq. (2.11)

Variable
0.1

Link (2006)

0.1

Link (2006)

Calculated

Eq. (2.19)

0.3
0.2
100
10
Deactivated
SIMPLEC
Multigrid/redblacksuccessiveoverrelaxation
Intel i7 * 5
ca. 3600

Appendix B. Grid resolutions used for the CFD/DEM


simulations.
Grid type

Resolution

Fine uid grid


Fluid multi-grid (3 levels)

128,640
16,080, 2010, 670

Particle grid
Particle search grid

Deactivated
25,600

Appendix C. Grid resolutions used for comparison of the


CFD/DEM simulation with the test rig.
Grid type

Resolution

Fine uid grid


Fluid multi-grid (3 levels)

380,160
47,520, 11,880, 2970

Particle grid
Particle search grid
Number of decompositions

47,520
25,600
9

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