Ph.D. dissertation

Me with my Ph.D. advisor, Andrea Prosperetti. Photo courtesy Claire VerHulst 2016.

I obtained a Ph.D. degree in Mechanical Engineering under Professor Andrea Prosperetti at the Johns Hopkins University in 2016. The work for my dissertation, entitled Numerical Simulation of Disperse Particle Flows on a Graphics Processing Unit, focused on the theoretical development and implementation of the numerical methods underlying the Physalis method for performing resolved particle flow simulations. Find more details about the methods in my dissertation (download PDF), as well as details about the resulting open-source code at PhysalisCFD.org.

Numerical Simulation of Disperse Particle Flows on a Graphics Processing Unit

Abstract:

In both nature and technology, we commonly encounter solid particles being carried within fluid flows, from dust storms to sediment erosion and from food processing to energy generation. The motion of uncountably many particles in highly dynamic flow environments characterizes the tremendous complexity of such phenomena. While methods exist for the full-scale numerical simulation of such systems, current computational capabilities require the simplification of the numerical task with significant approximation using closure models widely recognized as insufficient. There is therefore a fundamental need for the investigation of the underlying physical processes governing these disperse particle flows.

In the present work, we develop a new tool based on the Physalis method for the first-principles numerical simulation of thousands of particles (a small fraction of an entire disperse particle flow system) in order to assist in the search for new reduced-order closure models. We discuss numerous enhancements to the efficiency and stability of the Physalis method, which introduces the influence of spherical particles to a fixed-grid incompressible Navier-Stokes flow solver using a local analytic solution to the flow equations.

Our first-principles investigation demands the modeling of unresolved length and time scales associated with particle collisions. We introduce a collision model alongside Physalis, incorporating lubrication effects and proposing a new nonlinearly damped Hertzian contact model. By reproducing experimental studies from the literature, we document extensive validation of the methods.

We discuss the implementation of our methods for massively parallel computation using a graphics processing unit (GPU). We combine Eulerian grid-based algorithms with Lagrangian particle-based algorithms to achieve computational throughput up to 90 times faster than the legacy implementation of Physalis for a single central processing unit. By avoiding all data communication between the GPU and the host system during the simulation, we utilize with great efficacy the GPU hardware with which many high performance computing systems are currently equipped. We conclude by looking forward to the future of Physalis with multi-GPU parallelization in order to perform resolved disperse flow simulations of more than 100,000 particles and further advance the development of reduced-order closure models.

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