Icons of CFD: David Gosman
By   |  September 10, 2014

A successful scientist and entrepreneur, David Gosman spent his career relentlessly refining computational fluid dynamics techniques and tools. Indeed, many of today’s CFD software owe him more than they’d be willing to admit. Here’s the story of his beginnings, difficulties and achievements, from an engineering perspective…

Computational Fluid Dynamics is about solving difficult engineering problems, using expensive software, enormous computing resources and highly trained engineers. If the problems weren’t difficult, or very important, then it is doubtful that anyone would devote so much effort, time, and money at solving them. From the perspective of a modern engineer, it would be easy to assume that this desire to apply simulation technology complex problems is a recent concern; that only today are we able to contemplate solving tough industrial problems, armed with a complex array of multi-physics simulation tools.

Pr David Gosman.

This is a misconception. Forty years ago, CFD was born from a desire to solve difficult problems involving turbulence, heat-transfer, and combustion, based on the vision of a small group of pioneering researchers who were able to see beyond the meager computing resources available at the time, and to develop the techniques and methods that would ultimately revolutionize engineering.

Prof. David Gosman is one of those pioneers. As a member of Prof. Spalding’s Imperial College CFD research group from the beginning, he played a pivotal role in developing simulation methodologies that could cope with the complex geometries of real industrial problems, many of which are employed in all commercial CFD codes today. He also pioneered the use of CFD for combustion in reciprocating engines and methodologies and software that he developed have been applied to investigate the design of almost every automotive engine designed since the early 1990s.

Prof. Gosman arrived at Imperial College in the autumn of 1962 have recently graduated from the University of British Columbia, to study for his PhD under Prof. Brian Spalding. In the early 1960s the focus of the Spalding’s research was the development of a ‘universal method’ for computing turbulent flows, using momentum integral methods for two-dimensional shear flows, and designed to account for free flows and wall jets. Although these techniques proved moderately successful for the prediction of “parabolic” boundary layer type flows, they were not applicable to more general “elliptic” type problems (with strong pressure gradients, separation, recirculation and impingement).

Since the solution of “industrial” type problems, especially those including combustion, required the solution of elliptic type problems, Prof. Spalding and his team eventually abandoned the 2D-parabolic approach in favor of a discretized “stream-function-vorticity” approach, that solved the two-dimensional Navier-Stokes equations (cast in terms of stream function and vorticity) using a finite-volume approach and upwind differencing. Although Prof. Gosman’s mainly experimental PhD did not directly involve the development of these methods, he soon became entangled in their development, to such an extent that the publication of his thesis was delayed by a number of years. It was this diversion that was to ultimately define his whole career.

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