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posted on 06.05.2021, 12:22 by Shashank Jaiswal
The Boltzmann equation, an integro-differential equation for the molecular distribution function in the physical and velocity phase space, governs the fluid flow behavior at a wide range of physical conditions, including compressible, turbulent, as well as flows involving further physics such as non-equilibrium internal energy exchange and chemical reactions. Despite its wide applicability, deterministic solutions of the Boltzmann equation present a huge computational challenge, and often the collision operator is simplified for practical reasons, hereby, referred to as linear kinetic models. These models utilize the moment of the underlying probability distribution to mimic some properties of the original collision operator. But, just because we know the moments of a distribution, doesn't mean we know the actual distribution. The approximation of reality can never supersede the reality itself. Because, all the facts (moments) about the world (distribution) cannot explain the world. The premise lies not in the fact that a certain flow behavior can be correctly predicted; but rather that the Boltzmann equation can reveal and explain previously unsuspected aspects of reality.

Therefore, in this work, we introduce accurate, efficient, and robust numerical schemes for solving the multi-species Boltzmann equation which can model general repulsive interactions. These schemes are high order spatially and temporally accurate, spectrally accurate in molecular velocity space, exhibit nearly linear parallel efficiency on the current generation of processors; and can model a wide-range of rarefied flows including flows involving momentum, heat, and diffusive transport. The single-species variant formed the basis of author's Masters' thesis.

While the first part of the dissertation is targeted towards multi-species flows that exhibit rich non-equilibrium phenomenon; the second part focuses on single-species flows that do not depart significantly from equilibrium. This is the case, for example, in micro-nozzles, where a portion of flow can be highly rarefied, whereas others can be in near-continuum regime. However, when the flow is in near-continuum regime, the traditional deterministic numerical schemes for kinetic equations encounter two difficulties: a) since the near-continuum is essentially an effect of large number of particles in an infinitesimal volume, the average time between successive collisions decrease, and therefore the discrete simulation timestep has to be made smaller; b) since the number of molecular collisions increase, the flow acquires steady state slowly, and therefore one needs to carry out time integration for large number of time steps. Numerically, the underlying issue stems from stiffness of the discretized ordinary differential equation system. This situation is analogous to low Reynolds number scenario in traditional compressible Navier-Stokes simulations. To circumvent these issues, we introduce a class of high order spatially and temporally accurate implicit-explicit schemes for single-species Boltzmann equation and related kinetic models with the following properties: a) since the Navier-Stokes can be derived from the asymptotics of the Boltzmann equation (using Chapman-Enskog expansion~\cite{cercignani2000rarefied}) in the limit of vanishing rarefaction, these schemes preserve the transition from Boltzmann to Navier-Stokes; b) the timestep is independent of the rarefaction and therefore the scheme can handle both rarefied and near-continuum flows or combinations thereof; c) these schemes do not require iterations and therefore are easy to scale to large problem sizes beyond thousands of processors (because parallel efficiency of Krylov space iterative solvers deteriorate rapidly with increase in processor count); d) with use of high order multi-stage time-splitting, the time integration over sufficiently long number of timesteps can be carried out more accurately. The extension of the present methodology to the multi-species case can be considered in the future.

A series of numerical tests are performed to illustrate the efficiency and accuracy of the proposed methods. Various benchmarks highlighting different scattering models, different mass ratios, momentum transport, heat transfer, and diffusive transport have been studied. The results are directly compared with the direct simulation Monte Carlo (DSMC) method. As an engineering use-case, the developed methodology is applied for the study of thermal processes in micro-systems, such as heat transfer in electronic-chips; and primarily, the ingeniously Purdue-developed, Microscale In-Plane Knudsen Radiometric Actuator (MIKRA) sensor, which can be used for flow actuation and measurement.


NSF CDS&E 1854829


Degree Type

Doctor of Philosophy


Aeronautics and Astronautics

Campus location

West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Alina Alexeenko

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee co-chair

Jingwei Hu

Additional Committee Member 2

Gregory Blaisdell

Additional Committee Member 3

Aaron Morris