- Visualization of Complex Three-Dimensional Flow Structures (2007)
- The visualization of numerical fluid flow datasets is essential to the engineering processes that motivate their computational simulation. To address the need for visual representations that convey meaningful relations and enable a deep understanding of flow structures, the discipline of Flow Visualization has produced many methods and schemes that are tailored to a variety of visualization tasks. The ever increasing complexity of modern flow simulations, however, puts an enormous demand on these methods. The study of vortex breakdown, for example, which is a highly transient and inherently three-dimensional flow pattern with substantial impact wherever it appears, has driven current techniques to their limits. In this thesis, we propose several novel visualization methods that significantly advance the state of the art in the visualization of complex flow structures. First, we propose a novel scheme for the construction of stream surfaces from the trajectories of particles embedded in a flow. These surfaces are extremely useful since they naturally exploit coherence between neighboring trajectories and are highly illustrative in nature. We overcome the limitations of existing stream surface algorithms that yield poor results in complex flows, and show how the resulting surfaces can be used a building blocks for advanced flow visualization techniques. Moreover, we present a visualization method that is based on moving section planes that travel through a dataset and sample the flow. By considering the changes to the flow topology on the plane as it moves, we obtain a method of visualizing topological structures in three-dimensional flows that are not accessible by conventional topological methods. On the same algorithmic basis, we construct an algorithm for the tracking of critical points in such flows, thereby enabling the treatment of time-dependent datasets. Last, we address some problems with the recently introduced Lagrangian techniques. While conceptually elegant and generally applicable, they suffer from an enormous computational cost that we significantly use by developing an adaptive approximation algorithm. This allows the application of such methods on very large and complex numerical simulations. Throughout this thesis, we will be concerned with flow visualization aspect of general practical significance but we will particularly emphasize the remarkably challenging visualization of the vortex breakdown phenomenon.