Scientists develop virtual streams to help restore real ones

Posted By: Staff
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Washington, November 25 (ANI): Researchers at the University of Minnesota in the US have developed a unique new computer model called the Virtual StreamLab, designed to help restore real streams to a healthier state.

The Virtual StreamLab demonstrates the physics of natural water flows at an unprecedented level of detail and realism.

The University of Minnesota team of researchers led by civil engineering professor Fotis Sotiropoulos, director of the University's St. Anthony Falls Laboratory (SAFL), developed the Virtual StreamLab to help improve stream restoration processes.

They have completed their first simulation of SAFL's Outdoor StreamLab, a scaled natural stream along the Mississippi River.

More than 90 million data points have been mapped into the team's computer model resulting in the most accurate model of a real stream to date.

The Virtual StreamLab employs sophisticated numerical algorithms that can handle the arbitrarily complex geometry of natural waterways, features advanced turbulence models, and utilizes the latest advances in massively parallel supercomputers.

The ability to simulate water flow over topography with this degree of realism provides researchers with the insights necessary to improve sustainable stream restoration strategies, helping to optimize techniques to fight erosion, help prevent flooding and restore aquatic habitats in degraded waterways.

Past computer models often oversimplify the stream systems and can't accurately simulate the beds, complicated bank shapes, turbulence, and natural or man-made structures within them.

"The practice of stream restoration has had a rocky rate of success as practitioners have struggled to alter a natural system with countless unknowns," said Sotiropoulos.

"The need for more effective and reliable stream restoration strategies is clear, but the underlying physical processes which govern the behavior of a stream and its inhabitants are very complex," he said.

"Our new Virtual StreamLab should provide researchers with a deeper understanding of those complexities," he added. (ANI)

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