Project 3: Reaction-Diffusion

CS 7492, Spring 2021

Due: TBD


This assignment will give you experience in solving partial differential equations (PDE's) using finite differencing techniques.  In particular, you will simulate a reaction-diffusion system known as Gray-Scott.  This system creates patterns of spots, stripes or spiral waves, depending on the parameter settings.  One aspect of this assignment is learning about how to implement a diffusion operator.  Another aspect of this project is creating an image that gives a map of the parameter space of the simulation system.

Finite Difference PDE Simulation

You will write a PDE simulator using finite differencing on a 2D grid.  The specific system you will simulate is known as the Gray-Scott reaction-diffusion system.  The equations that govern this system are:

(Gray-Scott equation here)

Central to your simulator will be a 2D grid, each cell of which contains the concentrations of two chemicals, u and v.  At each timestep, the chemical concentrations at each cell will change according to the above reaction-diffusion equations.  As we discussed in class, you should use operator splitting to separate the reaction step from the diffusion step.  This will allow you to implement the forward Euler diffusion operator in a separate function.

Here are some characteristics of your simulator:

Your simulator should act on this group of keyboard commands:

Initialization:  The Gray-Scott reaction-diffusion system is quite sensitive to its initial conditions.  If you begin with entirely random cell values, it is not likely to generate interesting patterns.  To initialize your grid of cells, first set each cell to have values u = 1, v = 0.  Then, within a 10 by 10 block of pixels, set the cell values to be u = 0.5, v = 0.25.   If you like, you can add small random values to u and v within the cells of the block.  You should feel free to create more than one such block if you want to break up the symmetry of the patterns that will form.  Initially, your simulator should begin in this initial state, and this is also the state that your simulator should re-initialize to when you type the command "i".

Diffusion values:  Fix the diffusion rate constants for u and v to ru = 0.082 and rv = 0.041.

Drawing the grid: At any given time, your simulator should be displaying the values of either chemical u or v.  Each cell should have some gray-scale intensity based on the chemical concentration.  In order for you to see the full range of values, find the minimum and maximum values for concentration at the current timestep.  Then scale the intensity so that the lowest value is displayed as black and the highest value is white.  Since drawing the grid takes time, you may wish to modify your simulator to display the grid just once every 10 timesteps.

Spatially-varying parameters:  In order to see the range of patterns that the Gray-Scott system, the keyboard command "p" should cause your simulator to vary the parameters k and f across different portions of the grid.  The parameter k should vary across the x direction (horizontally), and should take on values between 0.03 and 0.07.  That is, cells at the left edge will have k = 0.03, cells at the right edge will have k = 0.07, and in-between cells will linearly vary in k between these two extremes.  The parameter f should vary in the vertical (y) direction from f = 0.0 at the bottom to f = 0.08 at the top.  When you switch to this spatially-varying mode, you will find that small grids do not show off these variations well.  Change to a higher resolution grid and let your simulator run in this mode for a fairly long time in order to get a good picture of the parameter space.  When you have a good picture of the parameter space, pause your simulator and take a snapshot of the current state of the simulator.  You will turn this in along with your source code.  A typical parameter space picture will look like this:

(spatially-varying parameter results)

Diffusion solver:  You will write one diffusion solver, namely forward Euler diffusion.  For this diffusion solver, experiment with different values for the timestep variable dt.  Find the highest value for dt that results in stable simulations.

As usual, we will use "Processing" to carry out this assignment:

For any large project such as this, I recommend backing up your work often. You don't want to put in a ton of work and then accidentally delete all of it. I suggest making a new copy of your entire work folder every hour or so, and giving each new copy a higher number. Don't worry about file sizes -- source files are tiny. I also recommend copying all of your backups to a different computer once each day for extra safety.

Suggested Approach

As usual, you can follow my suggestions or not, depending on your level of confidence about this project.

Begin by creating a 2D floating point array for each of the u and v cell values.  Write a routine that will accept a 2D floating point array and display it as an image of gray-scale intensity values.  You can debug this after you write the initialization routine that makes a 10 by 10 block of special values (see Initialization above).  You should be able to display a black square on a white background from the initialized values.

Once you can display your 2D cell values, it is time to start working on forward Euler diffusion.  Write a separate routine that accepts a 2D floating point array as input,  performs one time-step of diffusion, and writes the result into the 2D array.  This routine should also have dt and the diffusion constant D as a parameters.  You will need a temporary 2D array in order to save intermediate values for your diffusion calculation.  Once you have calculated the new values at each cell, copy these back into the 2D array that was passed to the routine as input.  Verify the operation of this routine by calling it repeatedly for a non-constant array of values (e.g. the initialized values for u), and drawing the new values on the screen.  It should blur out the initial dark square.  If you have trouble with this routine, print out the values for u for ONE cell and its four neighbors, both before and after doing the diffusion step.  Do this for a cell at a dark/light boundary, and calculate by hand what values you should expect to be printed.  They key to debugging PDE solvers is to only print out values for one or a few cells, and to make sure that you have set up the values at that location so that you can calculate by hand what the answer should be.  Often this means putting in special debugging code that you will remove later.  If your diffusion seems to work, experiment with how large you can make dt before the routine becomes unstable.

Once you have forward Euler diffusion done, you are ready to move to reaction-diffusion.  Write a routine that accepts both the u and v arrays and dt as parameters, and that modifies the u and v values according to the reaction terms listed above.  Remember that you don't entirely replace u and v with the results of the reaction, but instead you will change them slightly according to the magnitude of the timestep parameter dt.  Once you have this reaction operator, then you are almost finished.  Each step through your simulator loop, perform diffusion on u with the diffusion parameter ku, perform diffusion on v with kv, and then call the reaction operator.  If you initialize the cells as described above, then you should be able to set k = 0.0625 and f = 0.035 and get a pattern of spots.

After you have one set of parameters working, make sure the other parameters also behave correctly (stripes and spiral waves).  You should be able to switch between parameters during simulation by pressing the 1, 2 or 3 keys.  Once these work, it is time to add spatially-varying parameters k and f.  For this, you will modify your reaction operator to act differently according to whether a global flag is set.  For spatially-varying parameters, use the cell positions (x and y) to determine the values of k and f.  Linearly interpolate in each of these directions between the minimum and maximum values given above.  You will have to run the simulator at a higher resolution than normal to get a really good picture of parameter space.

Turning In Your Assignment and Spatially-Varying Parameter Image

Turn in your Processing code for this project on T-square. In addition to your code, you should also include the image that shows the effect of spatially varying the  parameters (described above). 

Authorship Rules

The code that you turn in must be entirely your own. You are allowed to talk to other members of the class and to the teacher about general implementation issues. It is also fine to seek the help of others for general programming questions about Processing. You may not, however, use code that anyone other than yourself has written.  Code that is explicitly not allowed includes code taken from the Web, from books, from previous assignments or from any source other than yourself. You should not show your code to other students. Feel free to seek the help of the teacher for suggestions about debugging your code.