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COMSOL Version 4.2a Unveiled at the COMSOL Conference in Boston

New version expanded with particle tracing, image-to-material conversion, and Digital Elevation Map import.

The picture shows a particle tracing simulation with trajectories of argon ions in a quadrupole mass spectrometer (left). The electric fields that exert forces on the ions have both AC and DC components, and the combination of the two is essential for the function of the spectrometer. The figure on the right shows the ion energy distribution function at the spectrometer’s collector.

Magnetic prospecting is a method for geological exploration of iron ore deposits. The picture shows a simulation where imported Digital Elevation Map (DEM) terrain data was used to represent the underlying geometry using COMSOL version 4.2a. This model estimates the magnetic anomaly for both surface and aerial prospecting by solving for the induced magnetization in the iron ore due to the earth's magnetic field.

Newton, MA (October 14, 2011) — Today in Boston at its seventh annual User's Conference, COMSOL Inc. unveiled COMSOL Multiphysics version 4.2a, a major update of its market-leading multiphysics modeling and simulation environment. With the introduction of version 4.2a, which includes features that extend the reach of multiphysics analyses to new communities of engineers and scientists, COMSOL has created a tightly-integrated analysis platform that offers a breadth and depth unmatched in the industry. Version 4.2a sees the debut of two new products, Particle Tracing Module and LiveLink™ for Creo™ Parametric, as well as many new features that bring greater modeling power to the users of COMSOL Multiphysics and its application specific add-on modules.

“As more and more design teams turn to simulation for product innovation, COMSOL is committed to providing easy-to-use tools that support creativity and save precious development time,” comments Svante Littmarck, CEO of COMSOL. “With Version 4.2a we have made a significant upgrade of COMSOL Multiphysics’ core capabilities that will ensure all customers get the most out of their modeling tools throughout the product development process. We’re also very excited about making particle tracing available for both single physics and multiphysics simulations.”

Image-to-material conversion bypasses geometry creation and speeds up simulation

Image-to-material conversion can shorten time to solution for image-based simulation dramatically. With this new capability engineers and scientists in industries such as life science and semiconductors can now bypass both geometry creation and computational-demanding meshing of microscopic details. They can use image data to represent 2D material distributions or to identify regions with different materials by their color or gray scale. Images used in this way can have many origins such as scanning electron microscope (SEM), computed tomography (CT), or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

The picture shows a flow simulation using image-to-material conversion where the equivalent flow resistance is computed for a porous structure. Since this simulation method is fast, thousands of similar computations can be managed easily.

An important application of image import is the easy computation of equivalent volume-averaged material properties for highly inhomogeneous or porous materials. This includes properties such as conductivity, permittivity, elasticity, or porosity, and it allows for converting spatially distributed values to a single representative averaged value. Such equivalent material properties can then be used for simulations of larger structures, avoiding detailed microscopic information. This modeling approach has several advantages such as avoiding the often difficult operations of image segmenting and image-to-geometry conversion. It also brings greatly simplified meshing, less memory usage, and shorter computation times—all of which are crucial when the same analysis needs to be repeated many times for different images.

An imported image is made available as a general COMSOL interpolation function that can be used for any modeling purpose. Certain 3D analyses are made possible by importing multiple images representing sections of a 3D structure.

Digital Elevation Map import enables quick geometry creation for geophysics simulation

Version 4.2a also comes with a new Digital Elevation Map interpolation feature that directly supports the importation of topographical surface data formatted in the U.S. Geological Survey's (USGS) Digital Elevation Map (DEM) file format. Users can freely combine DEM surfaces with other surfaces and solids to form a volumetric representation of both geometry and mesh. Multiple DEM surfaces can be combined and intersected as well as embedded inside of other geometrical objects to form composite structures. Geometric structures resulting from DEM import are generic in the COMSOL environment and handled in the same way as are mechanical CAD structures. This means that the full power of COMSOL Multiphysics is available for DEM geometry representations and can be applied to any single physics or multiphysics simulation such as subsurface flow, electromagnetics, acoustics, and geomechanics.

A tetrahedral volumetric mesh created on a geometry that combines rectangular solids with imported DEM data of the topography of Mount McKinley. Such geometry representations can be used for any type of simulations in COMSOL Multiphysics.

CAD modeling and new LiveLink™ for Creo™ Parametric

COMSOL is a firm believer in the collaboration within design teams and across departments. The new expansion of the COMSOL LiveLink™ CAD interoperability products to embrace Creo Parametric design software from PTC® is another major step in support of these efforts. With the new LiveLink for Creo Parametric, COMSOL Multiphysics seamlessly integrates with the latest design software from PTC. By establishing an associative connection between the two applications any changes to a feature in the Creo Parametric CAD model automatically update the geometry in COMSOL Multiphysics while retaining physics settings. Additionally, all parameters specified in Creo Parametric can be interactively linked with your simulation geometry, which enables multiphysics simulations involving parametric sweeps and design optimization to sync up with the CAD program. The LiveLink for Creo Parametric includes all the capabilities of the COMSOL CAD Import Module and enables import and defeaturing of CAD files from all major CAD packages.

This image, created using the LiveLink for Creo Parametric, shows a simulation of a bus bar electric conductor. Since LiveLink synchronizes geometric dimensions between COMSOL Multiphysics and Creo Parametric, users can conduct parametric sweeps for design optimization in one and the same simulation.

The Parasolid® geometry kernel from Siemens PLM Software is now the default geometry kernel for users of the CAD Import Module and the LiveLink products for CAD. Parasolid enables the handling of more advanced geometry objects for users of any of the LiveLink products, which include versions for AutoCAD®, Autodesk® Inventor®, Creo™ Parametric, Pro/ENGINEER®, SolidWorks®, and SpaceClaim®.

COMSOL Multiphysics’ extensive Model Library is now accessible from within the One Window Interface that is included with the LiveLink for SolidWorks. Animations and images can now be created from the One Window Interface. Additionally, a series of performance enhancements make for quicker synchronization of large models.

Particle Tracing Module now available

The Particle Tracing Module extends the functionality of the COMSOL Multiphysics environment for computing the trajectory of particles in a fluid or electromagnetic field, including particle-field interactions. Any COMSOL add-on module combines seamlessly with the Particle Tracing Module, giving users access to additional modeling tools and fields to drive the particle motion. Applications include flow visualization, mixing, spraying, particle separation, mass spectrometry, ion optics, beam physics, ion energy distribution functions, acoustic streaming, and ray tracing.

“The new Particle Tracing Module is a game changer,” comments Bjorn Sjodin, VP of Product Management. “Now particle trajectories can be computed and visualized for any particle-field analysis. This will appeal to new groups of engineering communities that can use particle tracing for both traditional CFD and electromagnetics analysis and for more novel combinations with any other physics simulation. Customers will also appreciate the speed of the particle tracing, which makes it convenient to handle hundreds of thousands of particles in one and the same simulation.”

This flow and particle simulation of a nozzle for medical applications computes the pressure loss as a function of flow rate through the system. The shear stress and fluid forces are also computed, helping to assess the risk for blood damage, which frequently has to be accounted for when controlling the flow of medical devices.

A variety of different forces are allowed to act on the particles, including forces on charged particles in electric or magnetic fields, drag forces in CFD, electrophoretic forces in microfluidics, acoustic streaming forces in acoustics, and user-defined forces. Loss or gain of mass, charge, or similar quantities may be represented as auxiliary variables and equations for each particle along its trajectory. Particles can be massless or have mass, where the movement is governed by Newtonian, Lagrangian, or Hamiltonian formulations from classical mechanics. Low-level access to the mathematical formalism is available for highly customized simulations.

Results and visualization

Version 4.2a's new Join Data Set function compares solutions corresponding to different meshes, time steps, or parameter values. Users can form combinations of solutions using the operation's difference, sum, product, quotient, and more general and explicit expressions. An important application for the Join Data Set is to plot and evaluate the difference between two solutions in a mesh convergence study.

Any scalar quantity of interest can be visualized by slice plots or isosurface plots. Quantities visualized can be one of many predefined expressions or be typed in as a user-defined expression. A new addition to slice and isosurface plots is the slide controller for the location of the slices and surfaces within the plots.

Multislice plot of the temperature in Kelvin of the air blowing past a heat sink. The Multislice plot gives a quick overview of the temperature throughout the flow domain in each of the x, y, and z coordinate directions and only requires one node in the COMSOL Model Builder tree.

Incident sun radiation in the Heat Transfer Module

External radiation sources can now be defined in the Heat Transfer Module as sources at infinity or as point sources at a finite distance. This option is available in the Heat Transfer physics interface and any physics interface that supports surface-to-surface radiation. When defining a source at infinity, users input the power per unit area. This is typically applied for incident sun radiation in various types of renewable energy applications.

Another new important feature of the Heat Transfer Module is that users can define radiation on both sides of a boundary when surface-to-surface radiation is used. This new option is available in the Heat Transfer physics interface and any physics interface that supports surface-to-surface radiation.

Electromechanics multiphysics interface in the MEMS Module

A new Electromechanics multiphysics interface combines solid mechanics and electrostatics with a moving mesh to model the deformation of electrostatically actuated structures. Applications include biased resonator computations with modal and frequency-response analysis as well as pull-in voltage computations. A suite of new electromechanical tutorials are available showing 2D and 3D models of a biased resonator for stationary analysis, the frequency response, the normal modes, the pull-in voltage, and the transient response.

The picture shows a biased resonator simulation using the new MEMS Module Electromechanics interface, which tightly integrates electrostatics, solid mechanics, and moving mesh.

New communities of engineers and scientists

Multiphysics simulation technology is enabling engineers and scientists to realize their boldest design concepts and help businesses stay ahead of their competition. COMSOL Multiphysics Version 4.2a will make it easy for new user communities to find productive tools for solving their current design challenges.

Version 4.2a highlights

  • Fast particle tracking with particle-field interactions for CFD, electromagnetics, acoustics and other applications in the all-new Particle Tracing Module
  • LiveLink™ for Creo™ Parametric brings seamless bidirectional CAD integration with the latest design software from PTC®
  • Highly efficient simulation using image-to-material conversion based on photographic or scanned data; supported image formats are JPG, JPEG, BMP, PNG, and GIF.
  • Digital Elevation Map (DEM) import of topographical surface data for applications such as fluid flow, structural, or electromagnetics
  • Rapid post-processing of simulation results using interactive slice and isosurface plots with slider control
  • New user interface for large parametric sweeps and quick visualization of response surface plots
  • Check simulation results by comparing solutions corresponding to different meshes, time steps, or parameter values
  • Interpolation curves can be created from tabulated x,y or x,y,z data in both 2D and 3D to create new geometry objects
  • External radiation sources can now be defined in the Heat Transfer Module as sources at infinity or as point sources at a finite distance– typically used for incident sun radiation.
  • A new electromechanics physics interface in the MEMS Module combines solid mechanics and electrostatics with a moving mesh to model the deformation of electrostatically actuated structures. Applications include biased resonator computations with modal and frequency-response analysis as well as pull-in voltage computations.
  • For detailed information on COMSOL Multiphysics version 4.2a please visit


COMSOL Multiphysics is a software environment for the modeling and simulation of any physics-based system. A particular strength is its ability to account for multiphysics phenomena. Optional modules add discipline-specific tools for acoustics, batteries & fuel cells, chemical engineering, electromagnetics, fluid dynamics, geomechanics, heat transfer, MEMS, particle tracing, plasma, and structural analysis. Founded in 1986, the company has U.S. offices in Burlington, MA, Los Angeles, CA, and Palo Alto, CA. International operations have grown to include offices in the Benelux countries, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, India, Italy, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. Independent distributors of COMSOL Multiphysics are located in Australia, China, the Czech Republic, Egypt, Greece, Hungary, Israel, Japan, Malaysia, Poland, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Taiwan, and Turkey. Additional information about the company is available at


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