Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Carlo Lancellotti

Committee Members

Neepa T. Maitra

Rolf J. Ryham

Tobias Schafer

Vinay A. Vaishampayan

Subject Categories



Boltzmann equation; hyperbolic solver; splitting method


The Boltzmann equation or Boltzmann transport equation is a classical kinetic equation devised by Ludwig Boltzmann in 1872. It is regarded as a fundamental law in rarefied gas dynamics. Rather than using macroscopic quantities such as density, temperature, and pressure to describe the underlying physics, the Boltzmann equation uses a distribution function in phase space to describe the physical system, and all the macroscopic quantities are weighted averages of the distribution function. The information contained in the Boltzmann equation is surprisingly rich, and the Euler and Navier-Stokes equations of fluid dynamics can be derived from it using series expansions. Moreover, the Boltzmann equation can reach regimes far from the capabilities of fluid dynamical equations, such as the realm of rarefied gases -- the topic of this thesis. Although the Boltzmann equation is very powerful, it is extremely difficult to solve in most situations. Thus the only hope is to solve it numerically. But soon one finds that even a numerical simulation of the equation is extremely difficult, due to both the complex and high-dimensional integral in the collision operator, and the hyperbolic phase-space advection terms. For this reason, until few years ago most numerical simulations had to rely on Monte Carlo techniques. In this thesis I will present a new and robust numerical scheme to compute direct deterministic solutions of the Boltzmann equation, and I will use it to explore some classical gas-dynamical problems. In particular, I will study in detail one of the most famous and intrinsically nonlinear problems in rarefied gas dynamics, namely the accurate determination of the Boltzmann shock profile for a gas of hard spheres.

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