New design tools: multiphysics design

Growing use of design tools multiphysics: advanced mathematical and numerical computing technologies now enable a more accurate description of the interaction between the different physical to get more sophisticated products.

The use of tools for the numerical simulation of a physical phenomenon of special interest to the academic and industrial. There are many, in fact, situations where both these worlds have benefited from mathematical and numerical models capable of representing and analyzing the behavior of a physical system through computer processing and the subsequent post-processing of the data obtained. The traditional approach adopted by software companies that have dealt with these issues has always been based on a modeling limited to specific types of physical phenomena. From the thermal analysis structural mechanics, electromagnetism to chemistry, fluid dynamics to acoustics, the various software on the market were, at least until a few years ago, characterized by specialization to a single physical. In recent years this trend has given way to a new vision of simulation that favors a more general analysis of the scientific problem or project, taking into account not only the individual physical phenomena but also the mutual interaction effects.

In addition to the traditional areas of aviation and automotive industries, where the use of simulation tools distinguishing feature of most of the investments in the software, there are many companies that now you are entering, by incorporating the simulation methodologies supported by software tools today more simple and effective.

This phenomenon is justified not only by virtue of a greater culture and sensitivity towards the designers of virtual prototyping, but also the level of support and accuracy of the software is now able to provide an analysis and a more integrated of physical phenomena that interact in the process under study. These elements provide the user with the confidence to tackle more rigorous and effective innovative projects, thus enabling new research approaches and new processes for the development of industrial products in line with the objectives of affordability and quality of the optimization results.


Model fluid-structure interaction in a

microsensor SAW (Surface Acoustic Wave)

What convinces multiphysics approach is how it can lead to innovation: it happens more and more frequently that even small to medium businesses, but specializing in one area, they can design new solutions that tested within their production departments put the ' company in a position to be placed on the market in a different way, proposing to other businesses Ia technological solution so refined. As this suggests, as a multi-disciplinary approach is Ia response to a question that has always been there but the project to which it was not possible to provide a comprehensive response to date.

To understand what tools should be equipped with the designer who wants to take a competitive advantage from the use of multiphysics, we make an example of application in the aeronautical field: let's ask what happens when the materials that make up an aircraft is struck by lightning. The wings are made of lightweight composite materials resistant but which have electrical and thermal conductivity strongly anisotropic, and have a low conductivity compared to that of metals. When an electric current due to a lightning flowing through them the high increase in temperature makes them susceptible to damage from heating.

The layered structure, and anisotropic, of these composites requires a 3D analysis and the physical basis of the analyzed phenomena are strongly coupled due to heating, which depends on the distribution of current which in turn is influenced by the fact that the electrical conductivity of the composite depends on the temperature: the temperature rise becomes a problem then multiphysics complex.


Model of a strike wing of an aircraft.

On the left: the cutting plans show the intensity of the current density while the lines represent the path.

On the right: the color scale on the cutting plans showing the temperature, on the walls that the electric potential due to the lightning strike.

Source: COMSOL


Often you try to model this effect trying to combine computer codes developed in-house with commercial ones in order to account for multiphysics phenomena. This, however, proved extremely difficult, as none of the codes is initially designed to solve electromagnetic and thermal problems simultaneously. E 'therefore necessary to resort to instruments whose basic structure is built around the coupling of different physical and their simultaneous solution simple and sensed.

These software (mention, of all people, COMSOL Multiphysics, product leader in this industry), constructed according to the approach of coupling of different physical, immediately allow to model the lightning strike aircraft in an easy and computationally approachable. In particular, the modeling of this effect it is possible thanks to the ability of the software to be able to solve virtually every set of coupled differential equations. Also they can be easily added other physical effects, such as cooling due to the action of the wind.

Other examples can be found not only in the traditional fields of applied physics, but also in emerging technologies: advanced materials, alternative energy sources, biotechnology, MEMS (microelectromechanical systems), nanotechnology and optoelectronics.

The approach multiphysics allows, in conclusion, to increase efficiency in the design, reducing the time of simulation and stimulating innovation due to low costs of experimentation.



Translated via software




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