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April 7, 2013

Virtual Beer

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It might not make you the life of the party at Oktoberfest, but scientists who study fluid dynamics say they are one big step closer to creating the perfect 'virtual' beer. As this ScienCentral News video shows, computer scientists and mathematicians have developed new software models that tackle the difficult, and expensive, problem of animating fluids.

Animating Ale

Water gushes into a cruise ship stateroom; a helicopter hovers over a river, creating spray; a car splashes down a flooded city street. Animated scenes like these from blockbuster films typically cost Hollywood large sums of money and require lots of time and human attention.

But scientists at CSIRO in Australia and the Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute (ETRI) in South Korea have developed software that can simulate fluid motions automatically and relatively quickly using a common computer.

"One of our interests is not just to try to push the envelope on the effects, but to make them much more accessible by reducing the cost, particularly of labor, in creating these effects, by automating as much as possible, by using as much physics as possible," says Paul Cleary, leader of the computational fluid dynamics group at CSIRO that developed the modeling capability, and the principle author of the software.To create the software, the researchers used a mathematical process called "smoothed particle hydrodynamics."

When combined with three-dimensional models, it can predict the movement of fluids -- including bubbles, spray, foam, waves and other motions. The program can quickly and automatically apply all of these effects and interactions to millions of gallons of 'virtual' water.

Cleary explains that understanding the physics of fluid dynamics is key to modeling them.

"More traditional approaches would deal with each of these components relatively independently and compositing them. We are coupling all these and using the physics to automate them in order to produce both better quality and an easier process," says Cleary. "Its niche is being able to create high quality effects relatively easily with low effort and cost for scenes ranging from small but with complex physics, up to very large scale fluid effects. There are few products that can create the required effects at or near this level and these are either expensive to use or difficult to access." The team is also using the techniques to better understand environmental catastrophes, like tsunamis, storm surges, and dam-breaks.

In the mean time, the researchers are trying to perfect a virtual stout, which they say has more complicated physics than an ale.

CSIRO and ETRI are already making the software available on a case by case basis. It will be commercially available as early as 2009.

This research was presented at SIGGRAPH on August 9, 2007, and in the July, 2007 issue of Progress in Computational Fluid Dynamics. It was funded by CSIRO and ETRI, with additional funding from MIC, Korea's Ministry of Information and Communication.

       email to a friend by James Eagan

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