A moving-domain CFD solver in FEniCS with applications to tidal turbine simulations in turbulent flows

Qiming Zhu, Jinhui Yan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


A moving-domain computational fluid dynamics (CFD) solver is designed by deploying the Arbitrary Lagrangian Eulerian Variational Multi-scale Formulation (ALE-VMS) enhanced with weak enforcement of essential boundary conditions (weak BC) into the open-source finite element automation software FEniCS. The mathematical formulation of ALE-VMS, which is working as a Large Eddy Simulation (LES) model for turbulent flows, and weak BC, which is acting as a wall model, are presented with the implementation details in FEniCS. To validate the CFD solver, simulations of flow past a stationary sphere are performed with moving meshes first. Refinement study shows the results quickly converge to the reference results with fixed grids. Then, the solver is utilized to simulate a tidal turbine rotor with uniform and turbulent inflow conditions. Good agreement is achieved between the computational results and experimental measurements in terms of thrust and power coefficients for the uniform inflow case. The effect of the inflow turbulence intensity on the tidal turbine performance is quantified.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalComputers and Mathematics with Applications
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019



  • FEniCS
  • Tidal energy
  • Weak BC

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Modeling and Simulation
  • Computational Theory and Mathematics
  • Computational Mathematics

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