An interpretation and derivation of the lattice Boltzmann method using Strang splitting

P. J. Dellar (2011) An interpretation and derivation of the lattice Boltzmann method using Strang splitting Computers & Mathematics with Applications (published online)

Preprint available (OperatorLB.pdf 196K)


The lattice Boltzmann space/time discretisation, as usually derived from integration along characteristics, is shown to correspond to a Strang splitting between decoupled streaming and collision steps.  Strang splitting offers a second-order accurate approximation to evolution under the combination of two non-commuting operators, here identified with the streaming and collision terms in the discrete Boltzmann partial differential equation. Strang splitting achieves second-order accuracy through a symmetric decomposition in which one operator is applied twice for half timesteps, and the other operator is applied once for a full timestep. We show that a natural definition of a half timestep of collisions leads to the same change of variables that was previously introduced using different reasoning to obtain a second-order accurate and explicit scheme from an integration of the discrete Boltzmann equation along characteristics. This approach extends easily to include general matrix collision operators, and also body forces.  Finally, we show that the validity of the lattice Boltzmann discretisation for grid-scale Reynolds numbers larger than unity depends crucially on the use of a Crank-Nicolson approximation to discretise the collision operator. Replacing this approximation with the readily available exact solution for collisions uncoupled from streaming leads to a scheme that becomes much too diffusive, due to the splitting error, unless the grid-scale Reynolds number remains well below unity.