This thesis explores the use of stabilized finite element formulations for the incompressible Navier-Stokes equations to simulate turbulent flow problems. Turbulence is a challenging problem due to its complex and dynamic nature and its simulation if further complicated by the fact that it involves fluid motions at vastly different length and time scales, requiring fine meshes and long simulation times. A solution to this issue is turbulence modeling, in which only the large scale part of the solution is retained and the effect of smaller turbulent motions is represented by a model, which is generally dissipative in nature.
In the context of finite element simulations for fluids, a second problem is the appari-tion of numerical instabilities. These can be avoided by the use of stabilized formulations, in which the problem is modified to ensure that it has a stable solution. Since stabilization methods typically introduce numerical dissipation, the relation between numerical and physical dissipation plays a crucial role in the accuracy of turbulent flow simulations. We investigate this issue by studying the behavior of stabilized finite element formulations based on the Variational Multiscale framework and on Finite Calculus, analyzing the results they provide for well-known turbulent problems, with the final goal of obtaining a method that both ensures numerical stability and introduces physically correct turbulent dissipation.
Given that, even with the use of turbulence models, turbulent flow problems require significant computational resources, we also focused on programming and parallel implementation aspects of finite element codes, specially in ensuring that our solver can perform efficiently on distributed memory architectures and high-performance computing clusters.
Finally, we have developed an adaptive mesh refinement technique to improve the quality of unstructured tetrahedral meshes, again with the goal of enabling the simulation of large turbulent flow problems. This technique combines an error estimator based on Variational Multiscale principles with a simple refinement procedure designed to work in a distributed memory context and we have applied it to the simulation of both turbulent and non-Newtonian flow problems.