Section: Research Program

Mathematical modeling of multi-physics involving wave equations

Wave propagation modeling is of great interest for many applications like oil and gas exploration, non destructive testing, medical imaging, etc. It involves equations which can be solved in time or frequency domain and their numerical approximation is not easy to handle, in particular when dealing with real-world problems. In both cases, the propagation domain is either infinite or its dimensions are much greater than the characteristic wavelength of the phenomenon of interest. But since wave problems are hyperbolic, the physical phenomenon can be accurately described by computing solutions in a bounded domain including the sources which have generated the waves. Until now, we have mainly worked on imaging techniques based on acoustic or elastic waves and we have developed advanced finite element software packages which are used by Total for oil exploration. Nevertheless, research on modeling must go on because there are simulations which can still not be performed because their computational cost is much too high. This is particularly true for complex tectonics involving coupled wave equations. We then propose to address the issue of coupling wave equations problems by working on the mathematical construction of reduced systems. By this way, we hope to improve simulations of elasto-acoustic and electro-seismic phenomena and then, to perform numerical imaging of strongly heterogeneous media. Even in the simplest situation where the wavelengths are similar (elasto-acoustic coupling), the dimension of the discrete coupled problem is huge and it is a genuine issue in the prospect of solving 3D inverse problems.

The accurate numerical simulation of full wave problems in heterogeneous media is computationally intensive since it needs numerical schemes based on grids. The size of the cells depends on the propagation velocity of waves. When coupling wave problems, conversion phenomena may occur and waves with very different propagation velocity coexist. The size of the cells is then defined from the smallest velocity and in most of the real-world cases, the computational cost is crippling. Regarding existing computing capabilities, we propose to derive intermediate models which require less computational burden and provide accurate solutions for a wide-ranging class of problems including Elasto-acoustics and Electro-seismology.

When it comes to mathematical analysis, we have identified two tasks which could help us simulate realistic 3D multi-physics wave problems and which are in the scope of our savoir-faire. They are construction of approximate and multiscale models which are different tasks. The construction of approximate problems aims at deriving systems of equations which discrete formulation involves middle-sized matrices and in general, they are based on high frequency hypothesis. Multiscale models are based on a rigorous analysis involving a small parameter which does not depend on the propagation velocity necessarily.

Recently, we have conducted research on the construction of approximate models for offshore imaging. Elastic and acoustic wave equations are coupled and we investigate the idea of eliminating the computations inside water by introducing equivalent interface conditions on the sea bottom. We apply an On-Surface-Radiation-Condition (OSRC) which is obtained from the approximation of the acoustic Dirichlet-to-Neumann (DtN) operator  [74], [53]. To the best of our knowledge, OSRC method has never been used for solving reduced coupling wave problems and preliminary promising results are available at  [56]. We would like to investigate this technique further because we could form a battery of problems which can be solved quickly. This would provide a set of solutions which we could use as initial guess for solving inverse problems. But we are concerned with the performance of the OSRC method when wave conversions with different wavelengths occur. Anyway, the approximation of the DtN operator is not obvious when the medium is strongly heterogeneous and multiscale analysis might be more adapted. For instance, according to existing results in Acoustics and Electromagnetism for the modeling of wire antennas  [65], multiscale analysis should turn out to be very efficient when the propagation medium includes well logs, fractures and faults which are very thin structures when compared to the wavelength of seismic waves. Moreover, multiscale analysis should perform well when the medium is strongly oscillating like porous media. It could thus provide an alternative to homogenization techniques which can be applied only when the medium is periodic. We thus propose to develop reduced multi-scale models by performing rigorous mathematical procedure based on regular and singular multiscale analysis. Our approach distinguishes itself from others because it focuses on the numerical representation of small structures by time-dependent problems. This could give rise to the development of new finite element methods which would combine DG approximations with XFEM (Extended Finite Element Method) which has been created for the finite element treatment of thin structures like cracks.

But Earth imaging must be more than using elasto-acoustic wave propagation. Electromagnetic waves can also be used and in collaboration with Prof. D. Pardo (Iker Basque Foundation and University of Bilbao), we conduct researches on passive imaging to probe boreholes. Passive imaging is a recent technique of imaging which uses natural electromagnetic fields as sources. These fields are generated by hydromagnetic waves propagating in the magnetosphere which transform into electromagnetic waves when they reach the ionosphere. This is a mid-frequency imaging technique which applies also to mineral and geothermal exploration, to predict seismic hazard or for groundwater monitoring. We aim at developing software package for resistivity inversion, knowing that current numerical methods are not able to manage 3D inversion. We have obtained results based on a Petrov-Galerkin approximation  [50], but they are limited to 2D cases. We have thus proposed to reduce the 3D problem by using 1D semi-analytic approximation of Maxwell equations  [78]. This work has just started in the framework of a PhD thesis and we hope that it will give us the possibility of imaging 3D problems.

Magique-3D would like to expand its know-how by considering electro-seismic problems which are in the scope of coupling electromagnetic waves with seismic waves. Electro-seismic waves are involved in porous media imaging which is a tricky task because it is based on the coupling of waves with very different wavelengths described by Biot equations and Maxwell equations. Biot equations govern waves in saturated porous media and they represent a complex physical phenomenon involving a slow wave which is very difficult to simulate numerically. In  [72], interesting results have been obtained for the simulation of piezoelectric sensors. They are based on a quasi-static approximation of the Maxwell model coupled with Elastodynamics. Now, we are concerned with the capability of using this model for Geophysical Imaging and we believe that the derivation and/or the analysis of suitable modelings is necessary. Collaborations with Geophysicists are thus mandatory in the prospect of using both experimental and numerical approaches. We would like to collaborate with Prof. C. Bordes and Prof. D. Brito (Laboratory of Complex Fluids and their Reservoirs, CNRS and University of Pau) who have efficient experimental devices for the propagation of electromagnetic waves inside saturated porous media  [55]. This collaboration should be easy to organize since Magique-3D has a long-term experience in collaborating with geophysicists. We then believe that we will not need a lot of time to get joint results since we can use our advanced software packages Hou10ni and Montjoie and our colleagues have already obtained data. Electro-seismology is a very challenging research domain for us and we would like to enforce our collaborations with IsTerre (Institute of Earth Science, University of Grenoble) and for that topic with Prof. S. Garambois who is an expert in Electro-seismology   [80], [81], [69], [70]. A joint research program could gather Geophysicists from the University of Pau and from IsTerre and Magique-3D. In particular, it would be interesting to compare simulations performed with Hou10ni, Montjoie, with the code developed by Prof. S. Garambois and to use experimental simulations for validation.