Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Engineering (MSE)


Electrical and Computer Engineering

Committee Chair

B. Earl Wells

Committee Member

Jeffrey H. Kulick

Committee Member

Aleksandar Milenkovic


Computer graphics., Space plasmas., Plasma (Ionized gases)--Mathematical models., CUDA (Computer architecture)


This thesis introduces a software framework that effectively utilizes low-cost commercially available Graphic Processing Units (GPUs) to simulate complex scientific plasma phenomena that are modeled using the Particle-In-Cell (PIC) paradigm. The software framework that was developed conforms to the Compute Unified Device Architecture (CUDA), a standard for general purpose graphic processing that was introduced by NVIDIA Corporation. This framework has been verified for correctness and applied to advance the state of understanding of the electromagnetic aspects of the development of the Aurora Borealis and Aurora Australis. For each phase of the PIC methodology, this research has identified one or more methods to exploit the problem's natural parallelism and effectively map it for execution on the graphic processing unit and its host processor. The sources of overhead that can reduce the effectiveness of parallelization for each of these methods have also been identified. One of the novel aspects of this research was the utilization of particle sorting during the grid interpolation phase. The final representation resulted in simulations that executed about 38 times faster than simulations that were run on a single-core general-purpose processing system. The scalability of this framework to larger problem sizes and future generation systems has also been investigated.



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.