Understanding hypersonic aerodynamics is important for the design of next generation aerospace vehicles for space exploration, national security, and other applications. Ground-level experimental studies of hypersonic flows are difficult and expensive; thus, computational science plays a crucial role in this field. Computational fluid dynamics (CFD) simulations of extremely high-speed flows require models of chemical and thermal nonequilibrium processes, such as dissociation of diatomic molecules and vibrational energy relaxation. Current models are outdated and inadequate for advanced applications. We describe a multiscale computational study of gas-phase thermochemical processes in hypersonic flows, starting at the atomic scale and building systematically up to the continuum scale. The project was part of a larger effort centered on collaborations between aerospace scientists and computational chemists. We discuss the construction of potential energy surfaces for the N4, N2O2, and O4 systems, focusing especially on the multi-dimensional fitting problem. A new local fitting method named L-IMLS-G2 is presented and compared with a global fitting method. Then, we describe the theory of the quasiclassical trajectory (QCT) approach for modeling molecular collisions. We explain how we implemented the approach in a new parallel code for high-performance computing platforms. Results from billions of QCT simulations of high-energy N2 + N2, N2 + N, and N2 + O2 collisions are reported and analyzed. Reaction rate constants are calculated and sets of reactive trajectories are characterized at both thermal equilibrium and nonequilibrium conditions. The data shed light on fundamental mechanisms of dissociation and exchange reactions – and their coupling to internal energy transfer processes – in thermal environments typical of hypersonic flows. We discuss how the outcomes of this investigation and other related studies lay a rigorous foundation for new macroscopic models for hypersonic CFD. This research was supported by the Department of Energy Computational Science Graduate Fellowship and by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. February 2016. Major: Aerospace Engineering and Mechanics. Advisor: Graham Candler. 1 computer file (PDF); x, 176 pages.
Multiscale Computational Analysis of Nitrogen and Oxygen Gas-Phase Thermochemistry in Hypersonic Flows.
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