UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
The research objective of this proposal is to use predictive simulations using innovative numerical methods and minimal empiricism to understand the physical
processes that govern mixed flow/powder-snow avalanches (MA). MA consist of a dense core and saltation layer of large snow particles beneath a dilute
turbulent powder cloud of small snow particles. The education objectives of this proposal are to develop an innovative course on predictive simulations in
science and engineering and to develop a simulation-based computer game to teach fluid-mechanics concepts to middle- and high-school kids. The proposed predictive simulations have the potential to transform our understanding of dilute-dense multiphase flows in general and mixed avalanches in particular.
The transformative impact of the simulations derives from the dangerous nature of and difficulties encountered in full-scale experiments with naturally occurring or artificially triggered MA and the limitations associated with experiments at smaller scales. The improved understanding gained from the proposed research will result in more accurate predictions of the size, run-out lengths, and hazard maps of highly destructive mixed avalanches and hence protect human lives and infrastructure.
Dimensional analysis is used to construct a computationally tractable model of a full-scale MA that retains the relative scaling of the important
physical processes. The predictive simulations are based on a creative and rational approach of coupling existing simulation tools for the dense core, saltation layer, and the powder cloud to give an innovative integrated multiphase-flow simulation capability that also greatly
advances the state-of-the-art in avalanche simulations. Subscale simulations will be used to reduce and quantify uncertainty at the model scale. The PI is uniquely
qualified to perform the simulations given his background in computational multiphase fluid dynamics and large-scale high-performance computations.
The collaboration with one of the world's leading institutes for research on avalanches, the Swiss Federal Institute for Avalanche Research, ensures
access to unique experimental data on full-scale and model-scale avalanches to validate the integrated simulation code and assess its predictive capability.
The PI has access to resources at local and national high-performance computing centers to carry out the proposed simulations.
The integrated research and education plan described in this proposal will have the following broad impacts. First, the innovative advanced course on predictive
simulations in science and engineering will train a new generation of scientists and engineers in using simulations as virtual experiments.
Predictive simulations will benefit society because they allow critical decisions to be made with confidence for systems that cannot be
studied using theory or experiments. Second, the simulation-based computer game will be developed in collaboration with science teachers from Oak View Middle School in Newberry, FL that caters to a large percentage of financially disadvantaged kids. The computer game will be disseminated over the Internet and has the potential to reach a very large number of middle- and high-school students, excite them about pursuing a career in science and engineering, introduce them to the power of predictive simulations and help provide them with the skills to excel in tomorrow's economy based on ideas.
Third, an undergraduate student will assist in the research on predictive simulations and the development of the computer game and therefore gather
valuable experience with modern computational methods. The results obtained as part of the integrated research and education plan
will be published in the relevant literature.