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Trees on fire

Novel computational approach realistically simulates each stage of tree combustion

Association for Computing Machinery

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IMAGE: Combustion of a tree model: a tree is exposed to fire until the branching structure reaches its ignition temperature (a). The combustion releases energy stored in the tree organs and... view more 

Credit: SIGGRAPH ASIA

BANGKOK, Thailand, -- Models of trees and plants appear frequently as part of everyday scenes in a variety of applications, ranging from architectural design and urban planning to computer games, film animation and most recently, in artificial intelligence environments. While many methods exist to model the structural and visual appearance of trees and vegetation, a new computational framework is making it possible for users to realistically model the dynamic behavior of plants and their interaction with the environment.

Proposed by a global team of computer scientists at Stanford University, Adam Mickiewicz University and KAUST, a new computational approach simulates each step of a tree exposed to fire, capturing in detail the geometry behind the wood burning process, along with the effects combustion has on tree branches and leaves.

The researchers will present their work at SIGGRAPH Asia 2017 in Bangkok, 27 - 30 November. The annual conference and exhibition showcases the world's leading professionals, academics and creative minds at the forefront of computer graphics and interactive techniques.

The new computational method efficiently simulates the combustion of a tree, or multiple trees in parallel, capturing biological and physical attributes that drive the kinetic behavior of a plant and its reaction to the heat release in the combustion process. The resulting simulation is a realistic enactment of trees on fire, including the point of ignition, how the combustion releases energy stored in the tree organs and how the fire spreads throughout the body of the tree, leading to the disintegration of its leaves and the bending and breaking of branches.

"Only recently, efforts in plant modeling concentrate on the dynamic behavior by simulating the physics response of plants," said Sören Pirk, visiting assistant professor of computer science at Stanford and lead author of the study. "We advance tree modeling by introducing a combustion model for trees that is biologically plausible while also being computationally efficient."

"The key idea to our approach is to jointly simulate tree motion, fire and the combustion of plant tissue," added Michal Jarzabek, a coauthor of the research and a PhD student at Adam Mickiewicz University in Pozna?, Poland.

Pirk and Jarzabek collaborated with Wojciech Palubicki at Adam Mickiewicz University, and Torsten Hädrich and Dominik L. Michels, both at KAUST.

Current methods in computer graphics for simulating the combustion of solids ignore essential parts of tree combustion and cannot be easily adapted to botanical models of trees. This new method also captures the geometry behind the combustion of wood - depicting the stages of burning including realistic representations of evaporation of moisture, the formation of a char layer and the reduction of virgin wood. A user can dynamically interact with the model by initiating fires and by inducing mechanical stress on the branches.

The researchers' new method incorporates heat transfer and integration of plausible physics of tree models and fluid dynamics. The framework maintains animation-ready plants at all stages of the combustion simulation and supports the efficient interaction with plants in real time. In the study, the researchers demonstrate the effectiveness of their approach through numerous examples and compare its authenticity against the combustion of real wood samples.

In future work, the method could potentially be applied to material science and forestry research; for instance, this approach could assist in the study of tree combustion as it relates to forest fire modeling. Future work could also include further exploration of heat conduction on the surface and char contraction; increasing the complexity of these components could improve the realistic simulation of tree models overall.

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About SIGGRAPH Asia 2017

The 10th ACM SIGGRAPH Conference and Exhibition on Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques in Asia will take place in Bangkok, Thailand at the at the Bangkok International Trade and Exhibition Centre (BITEC) from 27 - 30 November 2017. The annual event held in Asia attracts the most respected technical and creative people from all over the world who are excited by research, science, art, animation, gaming, interactivity, education and emerging technologies. The four-day SIGGRAPH Asia 2017 conference includes a diverse range of juried programs, such as the Art Gallery, Computer Animation Festival, Courses, Emerging Technologies, Posters, Symposium on Education, Symposium on Mobile Graphics and Interactive Applications, Symposium on Visualization, Technical Briefs, Technical Papers, VR Showcase and Workshops. A three-day exhibition held from 28 - 30 November 2017 will offer a business

platform for industry players to market their innovative products and services to the computer graphics and interactive techniques professionals and enthusiasts from Asia and beyond.

About ACM SIGGRAPH

The Association of Computing Machinery's Special Interest Group on Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques (ACM SIGGRAPH) sponsors SIGGRAPH Asia 2017. Founded in 1947, ACM is an educational and scientific society uniting the world's computing educators, researchers, and professionals to inspire dialogue, share resources, and address the field's challenges. ACM strengthens the profession's collective voice through strong leadership, promotion of the highest standards, and recognition of technical excellence. The ACM SIGGRAPH deals with all aspects of graphical user/computer communication and manipulation: hardware, languages, data structure, methodology, and applications.

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