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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/M017915/1
Title: Data-Driven Surrogate-Assisted Evolutionary Fluid Dynamic Optimisation
Principal Investigator: Everson, Professor R
Other Investigators:
Tabor, Professor G Fieldsend, Professor J
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Hydro International Plc Ricardo Group UK Aerodynamics
Department: Engineering Computer Science and Maths
Organisation: University of Exeter
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 01 July 2015 Ends: 31 August 2018 Value (£): 554,616
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Artificial Intelligence
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Aerospace, Defence and Marine
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
27 Jan 2015 EPSRC ICT Prioritisation Panel - Jan 2015 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
Computational fluid dynamics (CFD) is fundamental to modern engineering design, from aircraft and cars to household appliances. It allows the behaviour of fluids to be computationally simulated and new designs to be evaluated. Finding the best design is nonetheless very challenging because of the vast number of designs that might be explored. Computational optimisation is a crucial technique for modern science, commerce and industry. It allows the parameters of a computational model to be automatically adjusted to maximise some benefit and can reveal truly innovative solutions. For example, the shape of an aircraft might be optimised to maximise the computed lift/drag ratio.

A very successful suite of methods to tackle optimisation problems are known as evolutionary algorithms, so-called because they are inspired by the way evolutionary mechanisms in nature optimise the fitness of organisms. These algorithms work by iteratively proposing new solutions (shapes of the aircraft) for evaluation based upon recombinations and/or variations of previously evaluated solutions and, by retaining good solutions and discarding poorly performing solutions, a population of optimised solutions is evolved.

An obstacle to the use of evolutionary algorithms on very complex problems with many parameters arises if each evaluation of a new solution takes a long time, possibly hours or days as is often the case with complex CFD simulations. The great number of solutions (typically several thousands) that must be evaluated in the course of an evolutionary optimisation renders the whole optimisation infeasible. This research aims to accelerate the optimisation process by substituting computationally simpler, dynamically generated "surrogate" models in place of full CFD evaluation. The challenge is to automatically learn appropriate surrogates from a relatively few well-chosen full evaluations. Our work aims to bridge the gap between the surrogate models that work well when there are only a few design parameters to be optimised, but which fail for large industry-sized problems.

Our approach has several inter-related aspects. An attractive, but challenging, avenue is to speed up the computational model. The key here is that many of these models are iterative, repeating the same process over and over again until an accurate result is obtained. We will investigate exploiting partial information in the early iterations to predict the accurate result and also the use of rough early results in place of the accurate one for the evolutionary search. The other main thrust of this research is to use advanced machine learning methods to learn from the full evaluations how the design parameters relate to the objectives being evaluated. Here we will tackle the computational difficulties associated with many design parameters by investigating new machine learning methods to discover which of the many parameters are the relevant at any stage of the optimisation. Related to this is the development of "active learning" methods in which the surrogate model itself chooses which are the most informative solutions for full evaluation. A synergistic approach to integrate the use of partial information, advanced machine learning and active learning will be created to tackle large-scale optimisations.

An important component of the work is our close collaboration with partners engaged in real-world CFD. We will work with the UK Aerospace Technology Institute and QinetiQ on complex aerodynamic optimisation, with Hydro International on cyclone separation and with Ricardo on diesel particle tracking. This diverse range of collaborations will ensure research is driven by realistic industrial problems and builds on existing industrial experience. The successful outcome of this work will be new surrogate-assisted evolutionary algorithms which are proven to speed up the optimisation of full-scale industrial CFD problems.

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Organisation Website: http://www.ex.ac.uk