Collections > Electronic Theses and Dissertations > Physically-based simulation of ice formation
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The geometric and optical complexity of ice has been a constant source of wonder and inspiration for scientists and artists. It is a defining seasonal characteristic, so modeling it convincingly is a crucial component of any synthetic winter scene. Like wind and fire, it is also considered elemental, so it has found considerable use as a dramatic tool in visual effects. However, its complex appearance makes it difficult for an artist to model by hand, so physically-based simulation methods are necessary. In this dissertation, I present several methods for visually simulating ice formation. A general description of ice formation has been known for over a hundred years and is referred to as the Stefan Problem. There is no known general solution to the Stefan Problem, but several numerical methods have successfully simulated many of its features. I will focus on three such methods in this dissertation: phase field methods, diffusion limited aggregation, and level set methods. Many different variants of the Stefan problem exist, and each presents unique challenges. Phase field methods excel at simulating the Stefan problem with surface tension anisotropy. Surface tension gives snowflakes their characteristic six arms, so phase field methods provide a way of simulating medium scale detail such as frost and snowflakes. However, phase field methods track the ice as an implicit surface, so it tends to smear away small-scale detail. In order to restore this detail, I present a hybrid method that combines phase fields with diffusion limited aggregation (DLA). DLA is a fractal growth algorithm that simulates the quasi-steady state, zero surface tension Stefan problem, and does not suffer from smearing problems. I demonstrate that combining these two algorithms can produce visual features that neither method could capture alone. Finally, I present a method of simulating icicle formation. Icicle formation corresponds to the thin-film, quasi-steady state Stefan problem, and neither phase fields nor DLA are directly applicable. I instead use level set methods, an alternate implicit front tracking strategy. I derive the necessary velocity equations for level set simulation, and also propose an efficient method of simulating ripple formation across the surface of the icicles.