Section: Research Program
Estimation of fluid characteristic features from images
The measurement of fluid representative features such as vector fields, potential functions or vorticity maps, enables physicists to have better understanding of experimental or geophysical fluid flows. Such measurements date back to one century and more but became an intensive subject of research since the emergence of correlation techniques  to track fluid movements in pairs of images of a particles laden fluid or by the way of clouds photometric pattern identification in meteorological images. In computer vision, the estimation of the projection of the apparent motion of a 3D scene onto the image plane, referred to in the literature as optical-flow, is an intensive subject of researches since the 80's and the seminal work of B. Horn and B. Schunk  . Unlike to dense optical flow estimators, the former approach provides techniques that supply only sparse velocity fields. These methods have demonstrated to be robust and to provide accurate measurements for flows seeded with particles. These restrictions and their inherent discrete local nature limit too much their use and prevent any evolutions of these techniques towards the devising of methods supplying physically consistent results and small scale velocity measurements. It does not authorize also the use of scalar images exploited in numerous situations to visualize flows (image showing the diffusion of a scalar such as dye, pollutant, light index refraction, flurocein,...). At the opposite, variational techniques enable in a well-established mathematical framework to estimate spatially continuous velocity fields, which should allow more properly to go towards the measurement of smaller motion scales. As these methods are defined through PDE's systems they allow quite naturally including as constraints kinematic properties or dynamic laws governing the observed fluid flows. Besides, within this framework it is also much easier to define characteristic features estimation procedures on the basis of physically grounded data model that describes the relation linking the observed luminance function and some state variables of the observed flow.
A substantial progress has been done in this direction with the design of dedicated dense estimation techniques to estimate dense fluid motion fields ,  , the setting up of tomographic techniques to carry out 3D velocity measurements  , the inclusion of physical constraints to infer 3D motions in atmospheric satellite images  or the design of dynamically consistent velocity measurements to provide coherent motion fields from time resolved fluid flow image sequences  . These progresses have brought further accuracy and an improved spatial resolution for a variety of applications ranging from experimental fluid mechanics to geophysical sciences. For a detailed review of these approaches see  .
We believe that such approaches must be first enlarged to the wide variety of imaging modalities enabling the observation of fluid flows. This covers for instance, the systematic study of motion estimation for the different channels of meteorological satellites, but also of other experimental imaging tools such as Shadowgraphs, Background oriented Schlieren, Schlieren  , diffusive scalar images, fluid holography  , or Laser Induced Fluorimetry. All these modalities offer the possibility to visualize time resolved sequences of the flow. The velocity measurement processes available to date for that kind of images suffer from a lack of physical relevancy to keep up with the increasing amount of fine and coherent information provided by the images. We think, and have begun to prove, that a significant step forward can be taken by providing new tools based on sound data models and adapted regularization functional, both built on physical grounds.
Additional difficulties arise when considering the necessity to go towards 3D measurements and 3D volumetric reconstruction of the observed flows (e.g., the tomographic PIV paradigm). First, unlike in the standard setup, the 2D images captured by the experimentalists only provide a partial information about the structure of the particles transported by the fluid. As a matter of fact, inverse problems have to be solved in order to recover this crucial information. Secondly, another issue stands in the increase of the underdetermination of the problem, that is the important decrease of the ratio between the number of observations and the total number of unknowns. In particular, this point asks for methodologies able to gather and exploit observations captured at different time instants. Finally, the dimensions of the problem (that is, the number of unknown) dramatically increase with the transition from the 2D to the 3D paradigm. This leads, as a by-product, to a significant amplification of the computational burden and requires the conception of efficient algorithms, exhibiting a reasonable scaling with the problem dimensions.
The first problem can be addressed by resorting to state-of-the-art methodologies pertaining to sparse representations. These techniques consist in identifying the solution of an inverse problem with the most “zero" components which, in the case of the tomographic PIV, turns out to be a physically relevant option. Hence, the design of sparse representation algorithms and the study of their conditions of success constitute an important research topic of the group. On the other hand, we believe that the dramatic increase of the under-determination appearing in the 3D setup can be tackled by combining tomographic reconstruction of several planar views of the flow with data assimilation techniques. These techniques enable to couple a dynamical model with incomplete observations of the flow. Each applicative situation under concern defines its proper required scale of measurement and a scale for the dynamical model. For instance, for control or monitoring purposes, very rapid techniques are needed whereas for analysis purpose the priority is to get accurate measurements of the smallest motion scales as possible. These two extreme cases imply the use of different models but also of different algorithmic techniques. Recursive techniques and large scale representation of the flow are relevant for the first case whereas batch techniques relying on the whole set of data available and models refined down to small scales have to be used for the latter case.
The question of the scale of the velocity measurement is also an open question that must be studied carefully. Actually, no scale considerations are taken into account in the estimation schemes. It is more or less abusively assumed that the measurements supplied have a subpixel accuracy, which is obviously erroneous due to implicit smoothness assumptions made either in correlation techniques or in variational estimation techniques. We are convinced that to go towards the measurement of the smaller scales of the flow it is necessary to introduce some turbulence or uncertainty subgrid modeling within the estimation scheme and also to devise alternative regularization schemes that fit well with phenomenological statistical descriptions of turbulence described by the velocity increments moments. As a by product such schemes should offer the possibility to have a direct characterization, from image sequences, of the flow turbulent regions in term of vortex tube, area of pure straining, or vortex sheet. This philosophy should allow us to elaborate methods enabling the estimation of relevant characteristics of the turbulence like second-order structure functions, mean energy dissipation rate, turbulent viscosity coefficient, or dissipative scales.
We are planning to study these questions for a wide variety of application domains ranging from experimental fluid mechanics to geophysical sciences. We believe there are specific needs in different application domains that require clearly identified developments and modeling. Let us for instance mention meteorology and oceanography which both involve very specific dynamical modeling but also micro-fluidic applications or bio-fluid applications that are ruled by other types of dynamics.