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Grain growth via the Potts model

The Potts model is essentially a many-spin Ising model, where one can represent a multi-granular material as a large 2-d or 3-d lattice of spin values. A group of conjoined same-spin pixels is a grain. The grain "boundaries" between different-spin pixels are a high-energy state that can be relaxed over time via the usual Monte Carlo spin update rules to simulate grain-growth, grain boundary migration, or a variety of other interesting physical effects. The energetics for all these models are captured in the Hamiltonian one writes for the collection of lattice points and their spins.

We worked with Liz Holm at Sandia to parallelize her Potts-model grain-growth code. The basic idea is similar to how one would parallelize an Ising model on a regular lattice. Each processor owns a sub-section of the lattice and updates its spins. Care is taken to insure Monte Carlo updates are made independently by each processor without violating the detailed-balance principle that two (or more) spins cannot be updated simultaneously if they interact with each other. This requires "coloring" the lattice into sets of non-interacting points. Then all lattice points of the same color can be updated simultaneously on different processors. For example, in 2-d on a square lattice with an 8-neighbor stencil (a lattice point has energetic interactions with all 8 points surrounding it), 4 colors is sufficient to enable 4 sweeps thru the lattice to update every lattice point. Similary, for a 26-point stencil on a 3-d lattice, 8 colors are used.

Collaborators on this project:

This paper describes the details of our parallelization approach, some enhancements we made to the basic Metropolis update algorithm to speed-up the calculations, and some applications of the Potts model to grain-growth problems of interest to Sandia.

Potts-model Grain Growth Simulations: Parallel Algorithms and Applications, S. A. Wright, S. J. Plimpton, T. P. Swiler, R. M. Fye, M. F. Young, E. A. Holm, SAND Report 97-1925, August 1997. (abstract)