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Large Eddy Simulations of a Back-step Turbulent Flow and Preliminary Assessment of Machine Learning for Reduced Order Turbulence Model Development

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posted on 30.07.2021, 20:52 authored by Biswaranjan PatiBiswaranjan Pati
Accuracy in turbulence modeling remains a hurdle in the widespread use of Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) as a tool for furthering fluids dynamics research. Meanwhile, computational power remains a significant concern for solving real-life wall-bounded flows, which portray a wide range of length and time scales. The tools for turbulence analysis at our disposal, in the decreasing order of their accuracy, include Direct Numerical Simulation (DNS), Large Eddy Simulation (LES), and Reynolds-Averaged Navier Stokes (RANS) based models. While DNS and LES would remain exorbitantly expensive options for simulating high Reynolds number flows for the foreseeable future, RANS is and continues to be a viable option utilized in commercial and academic endeavors. In the first part of the present work, flow over the back-step test case was solved, and parametric studies for various parameters such as re-circulation length (Xr), coefficient of pressure (Cp), and coefficient of skin friction (Cf) are presented and validated with experimental results. The back-step setup was chosen as the test case as turbulent modeling of flow past backward-facing step has been pivotal to understand separated flows better. Turbulence modeling is done on the test case using RANS (k-ε and k-ω models), and LES modeling, for different values of Reynolds number (Re ∈ {2, 2.5, 3, 3.5} × 104) and expansion ratios (ER ∈ {1.5, 2, 2.5, 3}). The LES results show good agreement with experimental results, and the discrepancy between the RANS results and experimental data was highlighted. The results obtained in the first part reveal a pattern of under-prediction noticed with using RANS-based models to analyze canonical setups such as the backward-facing step. The LES results show close proximity to experimental data, as mentioned above, which makes it an excellent source of training data for the machine learning analysis outlined in the second part. The highlighted discrepancy and the inability of the RANS model to accurately predict significant flow properties create the need for a better model. The purpose of the second part of the present study is to make systematic efforts to minimize the error between flow properties from RANS modeling and experimental data, as seen in the first part. A machine learning model was constructed in the second part of the present study to predict the eddy viscosity parameter (μt) as a function of turbulent kinetic energy (TKE) and dissipation rate (ε) derived from LES data, effectively working as an ad hoc eddy-viscosity based turbulence model. The machine learning model does not work well with the flow domain as a whole, but a zonal analysis reveals a better prediction of eddy viscosity than the whole domain. Among the zones, the area in the vicinity of the re-circulation zone gives the best result. The obtained results point towards the need for a zonal analysis for the better performance of the machine learning model, which will enable us to improve RANS predictions by developing a reduced order turbulence model.


Degree Type

Master of Science


Aeronautics and Astronautics

Campus location

West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Haifeng Wang

Additional Committee Member 2

Jun Chen

Additional Committee Member 3

Timothee Pourpoint