Numerical Modelling and Visualization of the Evolution of Extensional Fault Systems

UoM administered thesis: Phd

  • Authors:
  • Stephen Longshaw


The purpose of this work is split into two categories, the first was to analyse the application of real-time Physics Engine software libraries for use in calculating a geological numerical model. Second was the analysis of the applicability of glyph and implicit surface based visualization techniques to explore fault systems produced by the model. The current state of the art in Physics Engines was explored by redeveloping a Discrete Element Model to be calculated using NVIDIA's PhysX engine. Analyses regarding the suitability of the engine in terms of numerical accuracy and developmental capabilities is given, as well as the definition of a specialised and bespoke parallelisation technique. The use of various glyph based visualizations is explored to define a new standardised taxonomy for geological data and the MetaBall visualization technique was applied to reveal three dimensional fault structures as an implicit surface. Qualitative analysis was undertaken in the form of a user study, comprising of interviews with expert geologists. The processing pipeline used by many Physics Engines was found to be comparable to the design of Discrete Element Model software, however, aspects of their design, such as integration accuracy, limitation to single precision floating point and imposed limits on the scale of n-body problem means their suitability is restricted to specific modelling cases. Glyph and implicit surface based visualization have been shown to be an effective way to present a geological Discrete Element Model, with the majority of experts interviewed able to perceive the fault structures that it contained. Development of a new engine, or modification of one that exists in accordance with the findings of this thesis would result in a library extremely well suited to the problem of rigid-body simulation for the sciences.


Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Award date1 Aug 2011