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Exploring Discretization Error in Simulation-Based Aerodynamic Databases



This work examines the level of discretization error in simulation-based aerodynamic databases and introduces strategies for error control. Simulations are performed using a parallel, multi-level Euler solver on embedded-boundary Cartesian meshes. Discretization errors in user-selected outputs are estimated using the method of adjoint-weighted residuals and we use adaptive mesh refinement to reduce these errors to specified tolerances. Using this framework, we examine the behavior of discretization error throughout a token database computed for a NACA 0012 airfoil consisting of 120 cases. We compare the cost and accuracy of two approaches for aerodynamic database generation. In the first approach, mesh adaptation is used to compute all cases in the database to a prescribed level of accuracy. The second approach conducts all simulations using the same computational mesh without adaptation. We quantitatively assess the error landscape and computational costs in both databases. This investigation high-lights sensitivities of the database under a variety of conditions. The presence of transonic shocks or the stiffness in the governing equations near the incompressible limit are shown to dramatically increase discretization error requiring additional mesh resolution to control. Results show that such pathologies lead to error levels that vary by over factor of 40 when using a fixed mesh throughout the database. Alternatively, controlling this sensitivity through mesh adaptation leads to mesh sizes which span two orders of magnitude. We propose strategies to minimize simulation cost in sensitive regions and discuss the role of error-estimation in database quality.

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