Publications / SAND Report

Fluid-Kinetic Coupling: Advanced Discretizations for Simulations on Emerging Heterogeneous Architectures (LDRD FY20-0643)

Roberts, Nathan V.; Bond, Stephen D.; Miller, Sean A.; Cyr, Eric C.

Plasma physics simulations are vital for a host of Sandia mission concerns, for fundamental science, and for clean energy in the form of fusion power. Sandia's most mature plasma physics simulation capabilities come in the form of particle-in-cell (PIC) models and magnetohydrodynamics (MHD) models. MHD models for a plasma work well in denser plasma regimes when there is enough material that the plasma approximates a fluid. PIC models, on the other hand, work well in lower-density regimes, in which there is not too much to simulate; error in PIC scales as the square root of the number of particles, making high-accuracy simulations expensive. Real-world applications, however, almost always involve a transition region between the high-density regimes where MHD is appropriate, and the low-density regimes for PIC. In such a transition region, a direct discretization of Vlasov is appropriate. Such discretizations come with their own computational costs, however; the phase-space mesh for Vlasov can involve up to six dimensions (seven if time is included), and to apply appropriate homogeneous boundary conditions in velocity space requires meshing a substantial padding region to ensure that the distribution remains sufficiently close to zero at the velocity boundaries. Moreover, for collisional plasmas, the right-hand side of the Vlasov equation is a collision operator, which is non-local in velocity space, and which may dominate the cost of the Vlasov solver. The present LDRD project endeavors to develop modern, foundational tools for the development of continuum-kinetic Vlasov solvers, using the discontinuous Petrov-Galerkin (DPG) methodology, for discretization of Vlasov, and machine-learning (ML) models to enable efficient evaluation of collision operators. DPG affords several key advantages. First, it has a built-in, robust error indicator, allowing us to adapt the mesh in a very natural way, enabling a coarse velocity-space mesh near the homogeneous boundaries, and a fine mesh where the solution has fine features. Second, it is an inherently high-order, high-intensity method, requiring extra local computations to determine so-called optimal test functions, which makes it particularly suited to modern hardware in which floating-point throughput is increasing at a faster rate than memory bandwidth. Finally, DPG is a residual-minimizing method, which enables high-accuracy computation: in typical cases, the method delivers something very close to the $L^2$ projection of the exact solution. Meanwhile, the ML-based collision model we adopt affords a cost structure that scales as the square root of a standard direct evaluation. Moreover, we design our model to conserve mass, momentum, and energy by construction, and our approach to training is highly flexible, in that it can incorporate not only synthetic data from direct-simulation Monte Carlo (DSMC) codes, but also experimental data. We have developed two DPG formulations for Vlasov-Poisson: a time-marching, backward-Euler discretization and a space-time discretization. We have conducted a number of numerical experiments to verify the approach in a 1D1V setting. In this report, we detail these formulations and experiments. We also summarize some new theoretical results developed as part of this project (published as papers previously): some new analysis of DPG for the convection-reaction problem (of which the Vlasov equation is an instance), a new exponential integrator for DPG, and some numerical exploration of various DPG-based time-marching approaches to the heat equation. As part of this work, we have contributed extensively to the Camellia open-source library; we also describe the new capabilities and their usage. We have also developed a well-documented methodology for single-species collision operators, which we applied to argon and demonstrated with numerical experiments. We summarize those results here, as well as describing at a high level a design extending the methodology to multi-species operators. We have released a new open-source library, MLC, under a BSD license; we include a summary of its capabilities as well.