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Direct numerical simulation of electrokinetic transport phenomena: variational multi-scale stabilization and octree-based mesh refinement

by   Sungu Kim, et al.

Finite element modeling of charged species transport has enabled the analysis, design, and optimization of a diverse array of electrochemical and electrokinetic devices. These systems are represented by the Poisson-Nernst-Planck (PNP) equations coupled with the Navier-Stokes (NS) equation. Direct numerical simulation (DNS) to accurately capture the spatio-temporal variation of ion concentration and current flux remains challenging due to the (a) small critical dimension of the electric double layer (EDL), (b) stiff coupling, large advective effects, and steep gradients close to boundaries, and (c) complex geometries exhibited by electrochemical devices. In the current study, we address these challenges by presenting a direct numerical simulation framework that incorporates: (a) a variational multiscale (VMS) treatment, (b) a block-iterative strategy in conjunction with semi-implicit (for NS) and implicit (for PNP) time integrators, and (c) octree based adaptive mesh refinement. The VMS formulation provides numerical stabilization critical for capturing the electro-convective instabilities often observed in engineered devices. The block-iterative strategy decouples the difficulty of non-linear coupling between the NS and PNP equations and allows using tailored numerical schemes separately for NS and PNP equations. The carefully designed second-order, hybrid implicit methods circumvent the harsh timestep requirements of explicit time steppers, thus enabling simulations over longer time horizons. Finally, the octree-based meshing allows efficient and targeted spatial resolution of the EDL. These features are incorporated into a massively parallel computational framework, enabling the simulation of realistic engineering electrochemical devices. The numerical framework is illustrated using several challenging canonical examples.


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