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On the use of spectral element methods for under-resolved simulations of transitional and turbulent flows

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Title: On the use of spectral element methods for under-resolved simulations of transitional and turbulent flows
Authors: Moura, Rodrigo Costa
Item Type: Thesis or dissertation
Abstract: The present thesis comprises a sequence of studies that investigate the suitability of spectral element methods for model-free under-resolved computations of transitional and turbulent flows. More specifically, the continuous and the discontinuous Galerkin (i.e. CG and DG) methods have their performance assessed for under-resolved direct numerical simulations (uDNS) / implicit large eddy simulations (iLES). In these approaches, the governing equations of fluid motion are solved in unfiltered form, as in a typical direct numerical simulation, but the degrees of freedom employed are insufficient to capture all the turbulent scales. Numerical dissipation introduced by appropriate stabilisation techniques complements molecular viscosity in providing small-scale regularisation at very large Reynolds numbers. Added spectral vanishing viscosity (SVV) is considered for CG, while upwind dissipation is relied upon for DG-based computations. In both cases, the use of polynomial dealiasing strategies is assumed. Focus is given to the so-called eigensolution analysis framework, where numerical dispersion and diffusion errors are appraised in wavenumber/frequency space for simplified model problems, such as the one-dimensional linear advection equation. In the assessment of CG and DG, both temporal and spatial eigenanalyses are considered. While the former assumes periodic boundary conditions and is better suited for temporally evolving problems, the latter considers inflow / outflow type boundaries and should be favoured for spatially developing flows. Despite the simplicity of linear eigensolution analyses, surprisingly useful insights can be obtained from them and verified in actual turbulence problems. In fact, one of the most important contributions of this thesis is to highlight how linear eigenanalysis can be helpful in explaining why and how to use spectral element methods (particularly CG and DG) in uDNS/iLES approaches. Various aspects of solution quality and numerical stability are discussed by connecting observations from eigensolution analyses and under-resolved turbulence computations. First, DG’s temporal eigenanalysis is revisited and a simple criterion named "the 1% rule" is devised to estimate DG’s effective resolution power in spectral space. This criterion is shown to pinpoint the wavenumber beyond which a numerically induced dissipation range appears in the energy spectra of Burgers turbulence simulations in one dimension. Next, the temporal eigenanalysis of CG is discussed with and without SVV. A modified SVV operator based on DG’s upwind dissipation is proposed to enhance CG’s accuracy and robustness for uDNS / iLES. In the sequence, an extensive set of DG computations of the inviscid Taylor-Green vortex model problem is considered. These are used for the validation of the 1% rule in actual three-dimensional transitional / turbulent flows. The performance of various Riemann solvers is also discussed in this infinite Reynolds number scenario, with high quality solutions being achieved. Subsequently, the capabilities of CG for uDNS/iLES are tested through a complex turbulent boundary layer (periodic) test problem. While LES results of this test case are known to require sophisticated modelling and relatively fine grids, high-order CG approaches are shown to deliver surprisingly good quality with significantly less degrees of freedom, even without SVV. Finally, spatial eigenanalyses are conducted for DG and CG. Differences caused by upwinding levels and Riemann solvers are explored in the DG case, while robust SVV design is considered for CG, again by reference to DG’s upwind dissipation. These aspects are then tested in a two-dimensional test problem that mimics spatially developing grid turbulence. In summary, a point is made that uDNS/iLES approaches based on high-order spectral element methods, when properly stabilised, are very powerful tools for the computation of practically all types of transitional and turbulent flows. This capability is argued to stem essentially from their superior resolution power per degree of freedom and the absence of (often restrictive) modelling assumptions. Conscientious usage is however necessary as solution quality and numerical robustness may depend strongly on discretisation variables such as polynomial order, appropriate mesh spacing, Riemann solver, SVV parameters, dealiasing strategy and alternative stabilisation techniques.
Content Version: Open Access
Issue Date: Jun-2017
Date Awarded: Dec-2017
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10044/1/55917
DOI: https://doi.org/10.25560/55917
Supervisor: Sherwin, Spencer
Peiró, Joaquim
Sponsor/Funder: Science Without Borders
Department: Aeronautics
Publisher: Imperial College London
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Qualification Name: Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Appears in Collections:Aeronautics PhD theses

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