5 Unusual Simulations in COMSOL Multiphysics

Zeina Asad
Zeina Asad
5 unusual simulations in comsol multiphysics

This blog lists five unusual and unique simulations carried out in COMSOL Multiphysics, illustrating the comprehensive capabilities of the software and the fascinating side of modeling and simulation for science, research, and engineering.

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1. KitKat

Kitkat on a table

Think of a Kit Kat, the crunchy chocolate bars filled with solid milk filling that’s cherished globally as one of Nestlé’s iconic confectioneries. Behind these delicious treats lies a complex process for achieving uniform weight and calorie content for each bar.

To achieve this consistency, engineers at Nestlé’s Product Technology Centre in York, UK (PTC York) use a combination of SOLIDWORKS® software and COMSOL Multiphysics® simulation. This powerful duo fine-tunes chocolate flow, pressure, and nozzle uniformity, ensuring every bar meets the highest standards of consistency.

“We are confident in the results obtained from our simulations, and we know that they can be trusted to help us produce the best and safest designs possible. This, in turn, allows us to consistently deliver tastier and healthier products.”

– William Pickles, a process engineer at Nestlé.

Amidst the world’s craving for flawless chocolate bars, Nestlé’s secret ingredient is revealed to be simulation. It’s the force behind the perfect Kit Kat®, exemplifying that great taste is the result of meticulous design and engineering, driven by the power of simulation.

Simulation of kitkat chocolate bar
Probes located at each of the nozzle tips and in the flow channels demonstrate that the chocolate flow rate and pressure within the depositor and nozzles vary within specifications. Streamlines show the direction of chocolate flow.

Read more about how researchers at the Product Technology Centre in York, UK use simulation to perfect chocolate production at Nestlé.

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2. Sports Car’s Side Door and Mirror

Sports car

“Why a sports car? Because it is more fun, of course! And since I will probably never own a supercar, modeling one may give me enough satisfaction for a while…”

– Ed Fontes, VP of Development at COMSOL, Inc.

When you close the door of a sports car, it makes a strong sound that feels sturdy and well-built. This particular sound makes you think the car is high-quality and exciting right from the start.

In this study, Ed Fontes, the Chief Technology Officer at COMSOL, explores the subtle yet crucial impact of various door vibrations when closing a car door. Wind-induced vibrations can lead to noise, affecting the driving experience. By using advanced modeling and simulation, Ed estimates the high-speed airflow forces exerted on a sports car’s side door and mirror, not just in terms of intensity but also frequency.

The comprehensive modeling of fluid dynamics, including boundary layers, and examining their effects on the car’s surfaces. Through a one-way fluid-structure interaction (FSI) study, Ed captures the dynamic interplay between fluid forces and structural responses.

Ed acknowledges the limitations, highlighting potential avenues for future exploration. In unraveling the intricate relationship between aerodynamics and vibrations, his study showcases the value of simulation in understanding the nuanced forces that influence driving sensations.

Vibration of the mirror caused by the flow. Note that the deformation is exaggerated by a factor of 50, otherwise we would not see how the mirror moves.
The vibration of the mirror caused by the flow. Note that the deformation is exaggerated by a factor of 50, otherwise, we would not see how the mirror moves.

 

Read more about simulating wind load on a sports car’s side door and mirror.

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3. Bumblebees

Bumblebee on a flower

Bumblebees are nature’s little adventurers, and they’ve got a secret superpower that’s straight out of a sci-fi movie. These tiny buzzers use their very own built-in radar to find food.

A research team at the University of Bristol combined the power of physical experiments and simulation to study bumblebees’ electroreception and uncover whether they use hairs or antennae for their ability to find food.

Investigating two potential sensors, antennae, and mechanosensory hairs, the team’s findings illuminate the mechanisms. Both antennae and hairs respond to electric fields, but hairs exhibit greater sensitivity and displacement, revealing their role as superior electric field sensors.

The simulation corroborates these findings. Utilizing COMSOL Multiphysics®, the team unveils mechanosensory hairs’ heightened sensitivity compared to antennae. The simulation also reveals that only hair motion triggers neural reactions, confirming their role in electroreception.

Simulation of a bumblebee
Simulating the electric field potential and electric field strength of a flower. Copyright © Clarke, Whitney, Sutton, and Robert, from their paper, “Detection and Learning of Floral Electric Fields by Bumblebees”.

Read more about the research on bumblebees from the University of Bristol.

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4. Glaciers

Glacier

Glaciers, those magnificent rivers of ice that carve their way through mountains and valleys, hold more secrets than we might think. The Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets are not just silent witnesses to time’s passage. Their movements, like glacier acceleration and surface melting, hold a key role in the rise of sea levels.

In this blog, Julia Christmann – post doctoral researcher at Alfred Wegener Institute, focuses on Nioghalvfjerdsbræ (79 North Glacier, 79NG), a pivotal glacier in northeastern Greenland. Combining viscoelastic modeling and finite element analysis, she uncovers the mechanics of glacier crevasses and iceberg calving.

Understanding Nioghalvfjerdsbræ

Comprehending processes in ice masses is essential for accurate sea level rise projections. Nioghalvfjerdsbræ, with its enormous ice loss potential, becomes the target of the investigation. This glacier’s floating tongue and interaction with ocean tides are simulated using a COMSOL Multiphysics model, showcasing horizontal and vertical displacement variations captured by GPS measurements and satellite interferometry.

Elastic Insights

Traditional ice models often overlook the elastic behavior of ice. Christmann delves into the interplay between viscous and elastic effects using a Maxwell material model, revealing crevasse formation due to ice’s elastic deformation. By reconciling simulations with observed tidal displacements, her work strengthens our understanding of glacier mechanics.

Simulation of a glacier in comsol multiphysics
the horizontal displacement in flow direction just after the start of the simulation (t = 1200 s) where viscous deformation is negligibly small.

Read more about Christmann’s research and the valuable insights it provides into the dynamic processes that drive Greenland’s ice loss, ultimately impacting our understanding of sea level rise.

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5. Sinking Beer Bubbles

Guiness beer

Unveiling the Mystery of Guinness® Stout Bubbles

Guinness® stout is renowned for its unique dark hue and iconic frothy head, and even though the author’s preference lies elsewhere, the simulation of its bubble dynamics still intrigued them.

Bubbles Rising or Sinking?

The age-old debate of bubbles in a glass of Guinness® beer has been tackled using both experimental and numerical methods. Recent research conducted both in and out of pubs provides the definitive answer: the bubbles do sink. This intriguing phenomenon has more to offer than mere barroom discussions; it holds relevance in industries like food, chemicals, and biopharmaceuticals, as well as in academic studies.

Simulation Technique

In his recent blog, Fabrice Schlegel – author at the COMSOL Blog,  employs COMSOL Multiphysics® software and its Bubbly Flow interface to unravel the secret behind the movement of bubbles in Guinness® stout. This interface, within the CFD Module, models the velocity, pressure, and concentration of bubbles using Navier-Stokes and mass conservation equations. Rather than tracking individual nitrogen bubbles, the simulation follows the volume fraction of bubbles in the beer.

Buoyancy and Fluid Dynamics

Despite expectations of bubbles rising due to buoyancy, the simulation reveals a contrary truth. In properly designed glasses, the bubbles actually sink. This phenomenon arises from a combination of glass shape and fluid dynamics. The simulation demonstrates how, owing to density differences, fluid circulates, with denser regions sinking near the wall and lighter regions rising at the center of the glass.

Captivating Insights

This simulation-driven investigation not only solves a long-standing pub question but also highlights the intricate interplay of fluid dynamics, buoyancy, and shape in creating the mesmerizing movement of bubbles in Guinness® stout.

Simulation of a guiness beer in comsol multiphysics
The volume fraction of bubbles after 1.5 seconds.

Read more about the simulation that uncovers the hidden dynamics that make the bubbles in Guinness® stout move in a surprising direction.

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