Continuum Sensitivity Analysis for Shape Optimization in Incompressible Flow Problems

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Virginia Tech


An important part of an aerodynamic design process is optimizing designs to maximize quantities such as lift and the lift-to-drag ratio, in a process known as shape optimization. It is the goal of this thesis to develop and apply understanding of mixed finite element method and sensitivity analysis in a way that sets the foundation for shape optimization. The open-source Incompressible Flow Iterative Solution Software (IFISS) mixed finite element method toolbox for MATLAB developed by Silvester, Elman, and Ramage is used. Meshes are produced for a backward-facing step problem, using built-in tools from IFISS as well as the mesh generation software Gmsh, and grid convergence studies are performed for both sets of meshes along a sampled data line to ensure that the simulations converge asymptotically with increasing mesh resolution. As a preliminary study of sensitivity analysis, analytic sensitivities of velocity components along the backward-facing step data line to inflow velocity parameters are determined and verified using finite difference and complex step sensitivity values. The method is then applied to pressure drag calculated by integrating the pressure over the surface of a circular cylinder in a freestream flow, and verified and validated using published simulation data and experimental data. The sensitivity analysis study is extended to shape optimization, wherein the shape of a circular cylinder is altered and the sensitivities of the pressure drag coefficient to the changes in the cylinder shape are determined and verified.



Continuum Sensitivity Analysis, Finite element method