Inverse problems in thermoacoustics

Change log
Yu, Hans 

Thermoacoustics is a branch of fluid mechanics, and is as such governed by the conservation laws of mass, momentum, energy and species. While computational fluid dynamics (CFD) has entered the design process of many applications in fluid mechanics, its success in thermoacoustics is limited by the multi-scale, multi-physics nature of the subject. In his influential monograph from 2006, Prof. Fred Culick writes about the role of CFD in thermoacoustic modeling:

The main reason that CFD has otherwise been relatively helpless in this subject is that problems of combustion instabilities involve physical and chemical matters that are still not well understood.
Moreover, they exist in practical circumstances which are not readily approximated by models suitable to formulation within CFD.
Hence, the methods discussed and developed in this book will likely be

useful for a long time to come, in both research and practice.

[. . . ] It seems to me that eventually the most effective ways of formulating predictions and theoretical interpretations of combustion instabilities in practice will rest on combining methods of the sort discussed in this book with computational fluid dynamics, the whole confirmed by experimental results.

Despite advances in CFD and large-eddy simulation (LES) in particular, unsteady simulations for more than a few selected operating points are computationally infeasible. The ‘methods discussed in this book’ refer to reduced-order models of thermoacoustic oscillations. Whether intentional or not, the last sentence anticipates the advent of data-driven methods, and encapsulates the philosophy behind this work.

This work brings together two workhorses of the design process: physics-informed reduced-order models and data from higher-fidelity sources such as simulations and experiments. The three building blocks to all our statistical inference frameworks are: (i) a hierarchical view of reduced-order models consisting of states, parameters and governing equations; (ii) probabilistic formulations with random variables and stochastic processes; and (iii) efficient algorithms from statistical learning theory and machine learning. While leveraging advances in statistical and machine learning, we demonstrate the feasibility of Bayes’ rule as a first principle in physics-informed statistical inference. In particular, we discuss two types of inverse problems in thermoacoustics: (i) implicit reduced-order models representative of nonlinear eigenproblems from linear stability analysis; and (ii) time-dependent reduced-order models used to investigate nonlinear dynamics. The outcomes of statistical inference are improved predictions of the state, estimates of the parameters with uncertainty quantification and an assessment of the reduced-order model itself.

This work highlights the role that data can play in the future of combustion modeling for thermoacoustics. It is increasingly impractical to store data, particularly as experiments become automated and numerical simulations become more detailed. Rather than store the data itself, the techniques in this work optimally assimilate the data into the parameters of a physics-informed reduced-order model. With data-driven reduced-order models, rapid prototyping of combustion systems can feed into rapid calibration of their reduced-order models and then into gradient-based design optimization. While it has been shown, e.g. in the context of ignition and extinction, that large-eddy simulations become quantitatively predictive when augmented with data, the reduced-order modeling of flame dynamics in turbulent flows remains challenging. For these challenging situations, this work opens up new possibilities for the development of reduced-order models that adaptively change any time that data from experiments or simulations becomes available.

Juniper, Matthew
thermoacoustics, inverse problems, reduced-order models
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Awarding Institution
University of Cambridge
Schlumberger Cambridge International Scholarship