Deep neural operators as accurate surrogates for shape optimization, Khemraj Shukla, Vivek Oommen, Ahmad Peyvan, Michael Penwarden, Nicholas Plewacki, Luis Bravo, Anindya Ghoshal, Robert M. Kirby, George Em Karniadakis. Engineering Applications of Artificial Intelligence(2024)


Deep neural operators, such as DeepONet, have changed the paradigm in high-dimensional nonlinear regression, paving the way for significant generalization and speed-up in computational engineering applications. Here, we investigate the use of DeepONet to infer flow fields around unseen airfoils with the aim of shape constrained optimization, an important design problem in aerodynamics that typically taxes computational resources heavily. We present results that display little to no degradation in prediction accuracy while reducing the online optimization cost by orders of magnitude. We consider NACA airfoils as a test case for our proposed approach, as the four-digit parameterization can easily define their shape. We successfully optimize the constrained NACA four-digit problem with respect to maximizing the lift-to-drag ratio and validate all results by comparing them to a high-order CFD solver. We find that DeepONets have a low generalization error, making them ideal for generating solutions of unseen shapes. Specifically, pressure, density, and velocity fields are accurately inferred at a fraction of a second, hence enabling the use of general objective functions beyond the maximization of the lift-to-drag ratio considered in the current work. Finally, we validate the ability of DeepONet to handle a complex 3D waverider geometry at hypersonic flight by inferring shear stress and heat flux distributions on its surface at unseen angles of attack. The main contribution of this paper is a modular integrated design framework that uses an over-parametrized neural operator as a surrogate model with good generalizability coupled seamlessly with multiple optimization solvers in a plug-and-play mode.