COMSOL Releases Geomechanics Module – Advances into Soil and Rock Mechanics Simulations

Newest addition to the COMSOL Multiphysics® product suite targets geotechnical applications within oil & gas and civil engineering with tailored material models to study plasticity, deformation, and failure of soils and rocks as well as their interaction with concrete and man-made structures.

BURLINGTON, MA (August 18, 2011) — COMSOL, Inc., today introduced the Geomechanics Module, enabling the fast-growing community of COMSOL Multiphysics users to harness its powerful simulation environment for geotechnical and civil-engineering applications such as slope stability evaluation and failure prediction of tunnels, retaining structures, and excavations. The Geomechanics Module provides tailored interfaces for studying plasticity, deformation, and failure of soils and rocks, as well as their interaction with concrete and human-made structures. The Module, which comes with a variety of material models for soils, builds off of the Structural Mechanics Module add-on for the company’s flagship simulation software, COMSOL Multiphysics, and offers the ability to combine analyses with all other COMSOL modules seamlessly.

“Users of COMSOL in the geotechnical area have already been successful leveraging COMSOL’s products for electromagnetics and subsurface flow applications, such as induction well-logging, rainfall infiltration, and groundwater contamination, which has created demand for us to also develop specific geomechanical tools,” says Dr. Ed Gonzalez, product manager at COMSOL. “It’s great to now offer such capabilities with the introduction of material models that are household names in the geomechanics community: Cam-Clay, Drucker-Prager, Mohr-Coulomb, and Ottosen, to mention a few. The Geomechanics Module also serves as a complement to the Subsurface Flow Module. It will be exciting to see users venture into applications that combine the two.”

Soil Mechanics

Soil as an elastic material behaves very differently from common ductile materials like steel. When soil is compressed uniformly, it can withstand significant loads. But when soil is sheared or put in tension, it gives way easily. Traditional material models do not apply when analyzing phenomena such as these. The Geomechanics Module, on the other hand, comes with a suite of sophisticated soil material models that take into account the internal friction and interlocking mechanisms of soil particles. These models, which include Cam-Clay, Drucker-Prager, Mohr-Coulomb, Matsuoka-Nakai, and Lade-Duncan, can be used for analyzing the stability of slopes or retaining walls and similar applications.

Simulation of force transfers from a concrete beam to its steel reinforcement bars during tension failure

This simulation shows deep excavation of soil where Drucker-Prager’s plastic soil material model is used. A retaining concrete wall holds the soil in place. Horizontal stress, deformation, and plastic regions are visualized.

Rock and Concrete Mechanics

The Geomechanics Module also comes with powerful tools for modeling concrete and rock materials. Its built-in Willam-Warnke, Bresler-Pister, Ottosen, and Hoek-Brown model options can also be adapted and extended to a more general class of brittle materials.

“Even though the Geomechanics Module specifically provides material models for rock and concrete,” notes Dr. Gonzalez, “we know that our innovative users will find ways to apply these to other brittle materials such as ceramics.”


In addition to built-in plasticity models, user-defined yield functions can be created with the versatile equation-based user interfaces provided by the COMSOL Multiphysics environment. “As a matter of fact, users of COMSOL have implemented soil and rock mechanics materials by themselves over the last few years,” says Dr. Gonzalez. “This is a strong testimonial for the power of the equation-based user interfaces and how they can be used to customize and extend existing material models. The new predefined material models will save time for these users and be much easier to work with since no equation modeling is required.”

Subsurface Flow, Poroelasticity, and Multiphysics

The Geomechanics Module seamlessly combines with analyses from other COMSOL Modules. Some of the most important combinations, according to Dr. Gonzalez, can be made with the Subsurface Flow Module, which provides porous media flow, poroelasticity, and solute transport functionality.

“You can easily create multiphysics models,” explains Dr. Gonzalez. “You can blend dependencies of a computed temperature field as well as other field quantities into the material definitions of the Geomechanics Module with great freedom.”

Additionally, because the Geomechanics Module builds on top of the Structural Mechanics Module, users also have immediate access to foundational structural functionality, including shell, beam, and truss elements, structural contact, thermal stress, and common engineering material models.


  • Simulation of geotechnical and civil-engineering applications such as tunnels, excavations, slope stability, and retaining structures
  • Soil and rock mechanics material models for plasticity, deformation, and failure analyses
  • Mix soil and rock models with material models for concrete and brittle materials
  • Simulation of embankments, nuclear waste installations, foundations, slabs
  • Slope stability analysis
  • Combines with the COMSOL Subsurface Flow Module for poroelasticity and other porous media applications
  • Works seamlessly with all other COMSOL products for unlimited multiphysics simulations


COMSOL Multiphysics is a software environment for the modeling and simulation of any physics-based system. A particular strength is its ability to account for multiphysics phenomena. Optional modules add discipline-specific tools for mechanical, fluid, electromagnetics, and chemical simulations, as well as CAD interoperability. Founded in 1986, the company has U.S. offices in Burlington, MA, Los Angeles, CA, and Palo Alto, CA. International operations have grown to include offices in the Benelux countries, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, India, Italy, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. Independent distributors of COMSOL Multiphysics are located in Australia, China, Egypt, Greece, Hungary, Israel, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Poland, South Africa, the Czech Republic, Spain, Taiwan, and Turkey. Additional information about the company is available at

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