Direct simulation Monte Carlo on petaflop supercomputers and beyond
The gold-standard definition of the Direct Simulation Monte Carlo (DSMC) method is given in the 1994 book by Bird [Molecular Gas Dynamics and the Direct Simulation of Gas Flows (Clarendon Press, Oxford, UK, 1994)], which refined his pioneering earlier papers in which he first formulated the method. In the intervening 25 years, DSMC has become the method of choice for modeling rarefied gas dynamics in a variety of scenarios. The chief barrier to applying DSMC to more dense or even continuum flows is its computational expense compared to continuum computational fluid dynamics methods. The dramatic (nearly billion-fold) increase in speed of the largest supercomputers over the last 30 years has thus been a key enabling factor in using DSMC to model a richer variety of flows, due to the method's inherent parallelism. We have developed the open-source SPARTA DSMC code with the goal of running DSMC efficiently on the largest machines, both current and future. It is largely an implementation of Bird's 1994 formulation. Here, we describe algorithms used in SPARTA to enable DSMC to operate in parallel at the scale of many billions of particles or grid cells, or with billions of surface elements. We give a few examples of the kinds of fundamental physics questions and engineering applications that DSMC can address at these scales.