Fodder for high-performance computing

Working at the interface between mechanical engineering and mathematics: “Athene Young Investigator” Dr. Tomislav Maric

2020/10/14 by

How can accurate, efficient and extremely robust numerical methods be developed to simulate the movement of curved, dynamically deforming fluid interfaces on high-performance computers? This is the main research field of Dr.-Ing. Tomislav Maric, a postdoc in the Mathematical Modeling and Analysis Group. As a mechanical engineer in the Mathematics Department, who is conducting research as part of the interdisciplinary Collaborative Research Centre 1194, Tomislav Maric has been chosen as one of the new Athene Young Investigators at TU Darmstadt.

Athene Young Investigator Dr. Tomislav Maric in his office at the Mathematical Modeling and Analysis Group.

Tomislav Maric completed his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering at the University of Zagreb in Croatia and he has long been fascinated by numerical methods. The 37-year-old scientist thus moved to the Mathematics Department at TU Darmstadt in 2011 and wrote his thesis in the Mathematical Modeling and Analysis Group (MMA) under Professor Dieter Bothe. Bothe is a co-speaker for the Collaborative Research Centre (SFB) 1194, which is funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG), and a member of the advisory council for the Thermo-Fluids & Interfaces profile area at TU Darmstadt. Tomislav Maric has remained loyal to the subject of his doctoral thesis “Lagrangian/Eulerian numerical methods for multiphase flows” and is currently carrying out research into precisely these numerical methods in SFB 1194. He is also head of a research group in the MMA.

Around 40 scientists at TU Darmstadt, the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research in Mainz and the Leibniz Institute of Polymer Research Dresden are conducting research in SFB 1194 into the interaction between wetting and transport processes. They are investigating, for example, what happens when surfaces are printed and coated with different liquids, what processes occur when a liquid meets a solid and how dynamic wetting is dependent on local momentum, heat and mass transport processes. These are fundamental physical processes taking place at a micro- and nanometre level that have a decisive influence on the overall process and the resulting product quality but which have not been sufficiently understood up to now.

Research of numerical methods

Dr. Tomislav Maric
Dr. Tomislav Maric

Tomislav Maric’s main focus is research into numerical methods that can be used to help simulate the movement of fluid interfaces on high-performance computers. “A fundamental problem when simulating multiphase flows lies in determining which part of the space is occupied by which phase. If two fluids do not mix, a moving fluid interface forms between them. One example is the interface between water and air”, explains the Athene Young Investigator. According to the TU Scientist, numerical methods that are used for tracking this fluid interface have to be very efficient and robust so that they deliver accurate results, even when the interface changes topologically. This is especially true in cases where a droplet breaks up into many smaller droplets and thus many new interfaces are created”, he explains. The movement of fluid interfaces is important in many applications and at various different length scales – from lab-on-a-chip technology through to shipbuilding.

According to the Athene Young Investigator, research into these methods is very interdisciplinary and combines fluid dynamics, high-performance computers, mathematical modelling, numerical mathematics, computational geometry and computer graphics. The interdisciplinary nature of the research also poses a huge challenge in the development of computational software that is applicable to a wide range of multiphase flow problems. Maric focuses on the development of so-called Lagrangian / Eulerian methods, which should significantly improve the overall quality of the simulation because: “If the movement of the fluid interface is not calculated accurately enough, it will trigger a chain reaction of errors”, he emphasises.

New impetus for his research

The 37-year-old scientist believes that the grant awarded to him as an Athene Young Investigator will provide new impetus for his research. Tomislav Maric wants to expand his scientific network and his research cooperation with companies such as Bosch but also with international research institutes such as the CNRS in Paris and Oak Ridge National Laboratories in Tennessee, USA. He is also looking forward to holding and planning his own lectures as part of the AYI. It is important for him to provide his students with the latest knowledge. Research remains the priority for this young scientist, who is also an OpenFOAM software developer and was a founder of the start-up company “Sourceflux”.