6. Reference Guide for PION modules

6.1. Microphysics modules for PION

Microphysics refers to anything happening on the atomic scale relating to the composition and ionization state of the gas. Examples include when calculating the mean mass per particle, the gas temperature, the heating and cooling rates, and chemical kinetics.

PION implements a number of different microphysics classes, starting from simple heating and cooling prescriptions such as the collisional ionization equilibrium cooling curves of Sutherland & Dopita (1993), Wiersma et al. (2009), or the simplified model of Koyama & Inutsuka (2002). More complicated descriptions are also implemented, focussing especially on the non-equilibrium ionization of hydrogen.

  • mp_only_cooling
  • MPv0 (LEGACY)
  • MPv1 (LEGACY)
  • MPv2 (LEGACY)
  • MPv3
  • MPv4 (LEGACY)
  • MPv5
  • MPv6
  • MPv7
  • MPv8 (LEGACY)
  • MPv9

Legacy code should not be used because it is no longer maintained, and could be broken by newer code. Also, it is legacy code because it has been superseded by better microphysics modules.

The microphysics class to be used is controlled by the parameter chem_code. Possible options are:

chem_code NONE
chem_code MPv3
chem_code MPv5
chem_code MPv6
chem_code MPv7
chem_code MPv9

6.1.1. Production Modules mp_only_cooling

Despite its name, this class includes radiative heating as well as cooling when some options are selected. It approximates the radiative cooling properties of the gas as being a function of temperature and density only (ignoring chemical composition and ionization state) and uses tabulated functions to get a cooling rate. The same goes for the heating rate, although it is usually an analytic function. A number of schemes have been coded controlled by the runtime paramters

chem_code  NONE
EP_cooling [INTEGER>0]
EP_chemistry 0

This tells PION not to use a chemistry module, but to include a radiative heating and cooling module. The integer value tells PION which heating and cooling routines to use:

  • Case 1: Non-equilibrium ionization (NEQ) tabulated cooling curve by Sutherland & Dopita (1993), from file pk6ff75.neq.
  • Case 2: Heating and cooling according to the analytic prescription by Koyama & Inutsuka (2002), with typo corrections following Vasquez-Semadeni et al. (2007).
  • Case 3: Collisional ionization equilibrium (CIE) tabulated cooling curve by Dalgarno & McCray (1972).
  • Case 4: CIE tabulated cooling curve by Sutherland & Dopita (1993), from file m-00.cie.
  • Case 5: As case 4, but including photoionization heating assuming hydrogen is kept fully ionized, so that every recombination is followed instantly by a photoionization that inputs 5 eV of thermal energy to the plasma. This is appropriate for an HII region ionized by an O star, except that the CIE cooling function has the wrong cooling rates at about 10000 K (for HII regions) because it doesn’t assume H,C,N,O are photoionized.
  • Case 6: Similar to case 5, except that it uses a newer CIE cooling function by Wiersma et al. (2009). This has weaker cooling than SD93 by about a factor of 2 at the peak of the cooling curve, and has the same problems with consistency as case 5.
  • Case 7: Similar to case 4, except that it uses a newer CIE cooling function by Wiersma et al. (2009).
  • Case 8: Same as case 6, but with additional cooling associated with a photoionized plasma at temperatures of about 5000-20,000 K, assuming that H and He are always ionized at any temperature. It uses the CIE cooling from metals only (subtracting out the H and He cooling) from Wiersma et al. (2009), adds thermal bremsstahlung from H and He, and forbidden line cooling from photoionized C,N,O from Henney et al. (2009). To avoid double counting, we take the maximum of the WSS09 metal-line cooling rate and the Henney et al. forbidden-line cooling rate.

Cases 5 and 6 should not be used because they are inconsistent and better alternatives are available (cases 7 and 8).

Publications MPv3

This class uses an integration scheme such that photon transmission through the cell (calculated via raytracing) does not have to be integrated with the rate and energy equations. The ionization fraction of hydrogen is followed in a non-equilibrium time-integration, including photo-ionization, collisional ionization, and radiative recombination. The ionization state of He,C,N,O are assumed to follow H (although there is a compile-time flag to keep He neutral if needed), so that the electron fraction can include electrons from He, and so that forbidden-line cooling from C,N,O can be calculated in a semi-self-consistent way.

  • It uses multi-frequency photoionisation including spectral hardening with optical depth, using the method outlined in Frank & Mellema (1994,A&A,289,937), and updated by Mellema et al. (2006,NewA,11,374).
  • It uses the Hummer (1994,MN,268,109) rates for radiative recombination and its associated cooling, and Bremsstrahlung cooling.
  • For collisional ionisation the function of Voronov (1997,ADNDT,65,1) is used.
  • Collisional excitation of neutral H, table from Raga, Mellema, Lundqvist (1997,ApJS,109,517), using data from Aggarwal (1993).
  • Various formulae from Henney et al. (2009,MN,398,157) are used for cooling due to collisional excitation of photoionised O,C,N (eq.A9), collisional excitation of neutral metals (eq.A10), and the Wiersma et al (2009) CIE metals-only curve. The max of the Wiersma et al. curve and the Henney et al. functions is taken, to avoid double counting. For neutral gas heating and cooling rates from Wolfire et al. (2003) are used.
  • Photoheating from ionisation is discussed above. Cosmic ray heating will use a standard value, X-ray heating is ignored. UV heating due to the interstellar radiation field (ISRF) uses a standard value (unattenuated), using e.g. Henney et al. eq.A3, if requested. UV heating from the star uses the same equation, but with the optical depth from the source (using a total H-nucleon column density) used to attenuate the radiation.

The integration method uses the CVODES solver from the SUNDIALS package by (Cohen, S. D., & Hindmarsh, A. C. 1996, Computers in Physics, 10, 138) available from https://computation.llnl.gov/ The method chosen is backwards differencing (i.e. implicit) with Newton iteration.

It requires the following run-time parameters:

chem_code     MPv3
ntracer       1   # or >1 if there are other tracer variables needed
Tracer000     H1+ # This allocates tracer 0 to the ionized H fraction

EP_raytracing         1
EP_phot_ionisation    1
EP_cooling            1
EP_chemistry          1
EP_coll_ionisation    1
EP_rad_recombination  1
EP_update_erg         1
EP_MP_timestep_limit  1
EP_Min_Temperature    50.0  # or some appropriate value
EP_Max_Temperature    1.0e9 # or some appropriate value
EP_Hydrogen_MassFrac  0.73  # or some appropriate value
EP_Helium_MassFrac    0.27  # or some appropriate value
EP_Metal_MassFrac     0.014 # or some appropriate value


This class was used: MPv5

This class is for modelling photoevaporation of dense molecular clouds. The file inherits from MPv3, and instead of the Wolfire et al. (2003) neutral gas heating/cooling rates, it uses the Henney et al. (2009) molecular cooling rate and heating rates. So the only significant difference is in the treatment of non-ionized gas as being molecular instead of atomic.

It requires the same run-time parameters as MPv3, except we should set:

chem_code     MPv5


This module was used for studying stellar wind bubbles within HII regions around massive stars in: MPv6

This class is for running the cosmological radiative transfer test problems I (Iliev et al.,2006,MNRAS,371,1057) and II (Iliev et al.,2009,MNRAS,400,1283). It has been used for testing the ionizing radiative transfer code modules of PION.

The file inherits from mpv3, and instead of the Wolfire et al. (2003) and Henney et al. (2009) heating/cooling rates, it uses pure atomic hydrogen heating/cooling, and also sets the He and metal abundances to zero (hardcoded) regardless of the settings in the parameterfile. MPv7

This class is for running calculations with a simple two-temperature isothermal equation of state, where T is a constant low value when gas is neutral, and a constant high value when ionised, and linearly interpolated for partial ionisation.

The file inherits from mpv3, and instead of the Wolfire et al. (2003) and Henney et al. (2009) heating/cooling rates, it sets the temperature based on Hydrogen ion fraction. This is appropriate for dense and metal-rich gas, where thermal equilibrium is a good approximation.

Publications MPv9

Microphysics class for low metallicity gas at high redshift, as described in Dhanoa, Mackey & Yates (2014). This was used for studying the chemistry and thermodynamics of metal-free gas in the early universe, following the non-equilibrium chemistry of hydrogen, helium and deuterium.


6.1.2. Legacy Modules MPv0

This is the original microphysics class written for PION by J.Mackey, but it had some problems (speed, reliability) and was never used for research resulting in publications. Will probably be removed in future versions of PION. It includes non-equilibrium collisional ionization of a number of ions. MPv1

This microphysics class was used in Mackey & Lim (2010, 2011) for studying the expansion of HII regions and the formation of pillars, globules, elephant trunks at the borders of HII regions. It uses an implementation of the C2-ray algorithm developed by G.Mellema and collaborators (Mellema et al., 2006), but with significant modifications. It has since been superseded by updated algorithms that scale better on supercomputers (see Mackey, 2012, A&A). MPv2

This class is broken and can no longer be used. It was a fore-runner of MPv3, was never used for production work, and has been replaced by MPv3 and MPv5. MPv4

This class updates the implicit (C2-ray type) integrator of MPv1. It uses the same implicit raytracing scheme, so photon transmission through the cell is integrated with the rate and energy equations to obtain a time-averaged value. The main advantage here is that we can use multi-frequency photoionisation rates which depend on the optical depth. It was used in Mackey, (2012, A&A) but found to be less efficient than MPv3. MPv8

This class is for running calculations with a simple heating and cooling prescription for photoionization calculations in the StarBench Workshop test problems. The class inherits from MPv3, and instead of the Wolfire et al. (2003) and Henney et al. (2009) heating/cooling rates, it uses a much simpler prescription based on non-equilibrium heating and an ad-hoc, density-dependent cooling timescale. It offers few advantages over MPv7 and is considered to be legacy code.

6.2. Boundary Conditions

Boundary conditions are a key component of any grid-based code for fluid dynamics. PION implements a number of boundary conditions, listed below. Many of them are used exclusively for certain test problems and are not for general use (e.g. DMR and DMR2 are only for the Double Mach Reflection test problem).

External Boundary Conditions (governing flow onto or off the grid boundary):

  • periodic
  • outflow or zero-gradient
  • one-way-outflow
  • inflow
  • reflecting
  • fixed
  • equator-reflect
  • DMR
  • SB1

Internal Boundary Conditions (governing sources or sinks of mass/energy)

  • stellar-wind
  • jet
  • DMR2
  • RadShock
  • RadShock2

6.2.1. General-purpose boundary conditions Periodic boundaries: “periodic”

Along a given dimension, both boundaries of the grid can be set to have the solution be periodic, using the boundary type “periodic”. This means that there are an infinite number of copies of the domain along this coordinate dimension or, alternatively, that gas flowing out of one side of the domain will wrap around and flow back into the other side. Zero-gradient boundaries: “outflow” or “zero-gradient”

This assumes that all flow quantities have zero gradient moving off the domain, so that each boundary cell will have the same state vector as the edge cell.

An exception is the for the Psi field of the GLM divergence cleaning algorithm, for which the first layer of boundary cells have a value corresponding to the first layer of grid cells multiplied by -1, and the second layer corresponding to the second layer of grid cells multiplied by -1. Absorbing/outflow boundaries: “one-way-outflow”

This is the same as the zero-gradient boundary, except that it does not allow boundary cells to have velocities corresponding to inflow. It is sometimes called a “diode” boundary because it allows gas to flow freely only in one direction. In PION the normal component of velocity is set to zero if a zero-gradient boundary would have inflowing gas (another option is to switch to reflecting, but this is not done in PION).

The Psi field of the GLM divergence cleaning algorithm is treated as in zero-gradient boundaries Reflecting boundaries: “reflecting”

Here the boundary is treated as a reflecting wall, so that the normal component of velocity is a reflection of the grid values, but with the sign reversed. The boundary is assumed to allow slipping, so the tangential velocity of the boundary cells is a reflection of the grid values with the sign unchanged.

For the magnetic field components, the same rules apply as to the velocity, i.e. a normal magnetic field coming out of the reflecting wall is not allowed. To allow a normal component, use the “equator-reflect” boundaries instead. Axisymmetric boundaries: “axisymmetric”

These only work for 2D cylindrically symmetric calculations in the \(R-z\) plane. They are the same as reflecting boundaries except that the third \(\theta\) component of the velocity and magnetic field change sign across \(R=0\), to account for the rotational symmetry. This has no effect on the flow dynamics for hydrodynamics because the flux across the symmetry axis is zero by definition, but is important for the calculation of \(\nabla \cdot\mathbf{B}\) for divergence cleaning in MHD simulations. Inflow boundaries: “inflow”

Here a certain inflow state is imposed all along the boundary and this remains fixed for the whole simulation. Fixed boundaries: “fixed”

This is basically the same as the inflow boundary, except that the velocity of the gas can be zero, or corresponding to outflow. Stellar wind boundary: “stellar-wind”

This is an internal boundary condition, setting up a radially expanding wind within a certain radius of a point, where a star exists. It is a mass, momentum, and energy source on the grid, and it works in 1D, 2D, and 3D. It is switched on by setting the parameter WIND_NSRC to an integer value greater than zero.

Note, however, that it always assumes a 3D geometry so that the density falls of with an inverse square law to conserve mass. 2D simulations in Cartesian geometry will therefore not work correctly, because they assume a line source and not a point source.


WIND_0_pos0  0.0e18     # cm
WIND_0_pos1  0.0e18     # cm
WIND_0_pos2  0.0e18     # cm
WIND_0_radius 2.4688e17 # cm
WIND_0_type   0         # type of wind (constant=0, evolving=1)
WIND_0_mdot   1.73e-6   # Msun per year
WIND_0_vinf   2500.0    # km/s
WIND_0_temp   1.0e4     # K
WIND_0_Rstr   2.4688e17 # cm
WIND_0_TR0 1.0          # values of any tracer variables
WIND_0_TR1 0.0
WIND_0_TR2 0.0
WIND_0_TR3 0.0
WIND_0_TR4 0.0
WIND_0_evofile NOFILE   # data file for evolving wind
WIND_0_t_offset   0.0   # offset between evolutionary time and simulation time
WIND_0_t_scalefac 1.0   # Accelerates evolution by this factor (for MS phase)
WIND_0_updatefreq 1.0   # How often to update the wind quantities

6.2.2. Special-purpose boundaries Boundaries for Jet/Disk simulations: “equator-reflect” and “jet”

The “jet” internal boundary condition sets a strong supersonic inflow in the boundary region near the origin. It is an internal boundary condition because it only operates on a small part of one boundary. The opening angle of the jet is zero, and its width (in grid cells) is specified by the parameter “JETradius” in the paramter file. The jet properties are also in the paramter file, e.g.,

JETradius 4
JETdensity 1.0
JETpressure 1.0
JETvelocity 6.45
JETambRO 1.0
JETambPG 0.001
JETambVX 0.0
JETambVY 0.0
JETambVZ 0.0
JETambBX 1.0
JETambBY 0.0
JETambBZ 0.0

The “JETambXX” parameters set the state of the uniform external medium.

Generally only one side of a jet is simulated, because the system is assumed to have reflection symmetry in the equatorial plane. This is not a simple reflecting boundary however, because we assume that the system has a poloidal magnetic field and so the normal component of the field is continuous across the equator whereas the tangential component is assumed to be reversed. This is what the “equator-reflect” boundary does.

This has not been tested in 3D (where the radial component of the field in the equatorial plane should be reversed, but the rotational component should not be if there is a toroidal component), but in 2D axisymmetry it works well. Probably in 3D you should model the whole system if you are interested in the disk at all, and for that these boundary conditions are not going to be useful anyway. Double Mach Reflection test: “DMR” and “DMR2”

These are for the double Mach reflection test problem. DMR is the upper boundary where the shock is inflowing. DMR2 is the lower boundary at x<1/6, where we ignore the reflecting boundary condition and just enforce the post-shock state at the grid cells adjacent to the boundary. StarBench test problems: “SB1”

This is not used for any published test problem; a test was proposed but not ever developed to the point where it was considered a good test of any specific property of a solver. Radiative Shock Tests: “RadShock” and “RadShock2”

These boundary conditions are for 1D and 2D simulations of radiative shocks, where the aim is to set up a steady (or overstable) shock wave with a post-shock cooling region. The downstream boundary is either reflecting or absorbing. It can have a sink term that removes mass from the grid and/or enforce a specific mass flux through the downstream boundary. All of these conditions have some issues because the flow is inherently non-steady if the shock is overstable, and so it is probably best to just use a simple reflecting boundary condition in this case. For stable shocks the condition that tries to enforce a given mass flux through the boundary is probably good.