Free open source application developed for study of fluid dynamics

Written by: Laura Hopperton | Published:
Free open source application developed for study of fluid dynamics

Engineers at Stanford University have developed an open-source application that lets users model the effects of fluids moving over aerodynamic surfaces.

SU2 is a free, fully customisable software package that is said to incorporate everything an engineer needs to perform a complete design loop for optimising the shapes of aerospace systems.

"In engineering circles, the discipline is known as computational fluid dynamics," noted research associate Francisco Palacios, who led the team. "Creating custom software applications to accurately model the interactions of an object in flight can take months, even years, to write and perfect. And yet, when the student graduates, the software is often forgotten.

"These are incredibly complex calculations involving innumerable variables. Essentially, every student has to create their own code for their specific designs, even though the equations at the core are virtually identical."

Witnessing all of the coding his students were doing, and realising that much of it was built on a common foundation, Palcios led a team of multi-disciplinary engineers in compiling, debugging and documenting the application that became SU2.

"People can use this for everything from rockets to the design of more efficient wind turbines, and even boats and racecars," said PhD candidate Sean Copeland. "Just plug in the geometry of your plane, wing or rotor, and tell the program to increase lift or reduce drag, for instance. SU2 goes to work, optimising the shape for you in an automated way, showing you exactly where to alter your designs for maximum effect."

SU2 also comes with a quick-start guide, in-depth tutorials and a public forum where users and developers can seek advice and post support questions.

"These materials are exhaustive and continually updated," said Palacios. "Students can hit the ground running."

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