Natural flows and turbulence | National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois

Natural flows and turbulence

11.09.10 -

Work by a University of Illinois team may help prevent deep sea oil pipeline disasters.

Development of computational methods for modeling turbulent flows is considered a formidable challenge due to the plethora of associated spatial and temporal scales. Professor Arif Masud and graduate student Ramon Calderer from the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign are developing residual-based methods for modeling turbulence in complex fluid flows and fluid-structure interactions. Their new methods are mathematically consistent and robust and provide high-fidelity solutions at reduced computational costs as compared to the more traditional Direct Numerical Simulations (DNS).

In an effort to model flow-induced vibrations in off-shore oil platforms, the team is investigating fluid-structure interaction and turbulence around rigid and oscillating cylinders. Underwater currents trigger periodic vortices around risers that are oil pipelines extending from the floating platforms to the seafloor. Vortex shedding causes energy transfer from fluid to the structure and leads to high-amplitude vibrations that can trigger fatigue failure of the structural systems. The new methods and codes being developed by the research team will be used to analyze the structural integrity of deep sea risers following extreme storm events, and to model the cause of failure of the deep sea oil pipelines in the Gulf of Mexico.

To visualize the 3D nature of turbulent flows, the team turned to NCSA's Advanced Applications Support visualization team. Visualization programmer Mark Van Moer used ParaView, a parallel renderer, with custom VTK scripts to create visualizations for the team. "These visualizations have tremendously benefited us in the method development phase," says Masud.