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Smoothed Particle Hydrodynamics in cosmology: a comparative study of implementations

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  • R. J. Thacker
  • E. R. Tittley
  • F. R. Pearce
  • H. M. P. Couchman
  • P. A. Thomas

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)619-648
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2000


We analyse the performance of 12 different implementations of Smoothed Particle Hydrodynamics (SPH) using seven tests designed to isolate key hydrodynamic elements of cosmological simulations which are known to cause the SPH algorithm problems. In order, we consider a shock tube, spherical adiabatic collapse, cooling flow model, drag, a cosmological simulation, rotating cloud-collapse and angular momentum transport. In the implementations special attention is given to the way in which force symmetry is enforced in the equations of motion. We study in detail how the hydrodynamics are affected by different implementations of the artificial viscosity including those with a shear-correction modification. We present an improved first-order smoothing-length update algorithm that is designed to remove instabilities that are present in simple forward prediction algorithms. Gravity is calculated using the adaptive particle-particle, particle-mesh algorithm. For all tests we find that the artificial viscosity is the single most important factor distinguishing the results from the various implementations. The shock tube and adiabatic collapse problems show that the artificial viscosity used in the hydra code prior to version 4.0 performs relatively poorly for simulations involving strong shocks when compared to a more standard artificial viscosity. The shear-correction term is shown to reduce the shock-capturing ability of the algorithm and to lead to a spurious increase in angular momentum in the rotating cloud-collapse problem. For the disc stability test, the shear-corrected and previous hydra artificial viscosities are shown to reduce outward angular momentum transport. The cosmological simulations produce comparatively similar results, with the fraction of gas in the hot and cold phases varying by less than 10 per cent amongst the versions. Similarly, the drag test shows little systematic variation amongst versions. The cooling flow tests show that implementations using the force symmetrization of Thomas & Couchman are more prone to accelerate the overcooling instability of SPH, although the problem is generic to SPH. The second most important factor in code performance is the way force symmetry is achieved in the equation of motion. Most results favour a kernel symmetrization approach. The exact method by which SPH pressure forces are included in the equation of motion appears to have comparatively little effect on the results. Combining the equation of motion presented by Thomas & Couchman with a modification of the Monaghan & Gingold artificial viscosity leads to an SPH scheme that is both fast and reliable.

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