Postprocessor System

A PostProcessor object in MOOSE is a C++ object that computes a single scalar (Real) value, typically the value computed is an aggregation of data from a simulation. For example, the maximum value of a variable (see ElementExtremeValue). The value compute may be coupled to other systems via the getPostprocessorValue method available in most MOOSE objects.

MOOSE includes a large number of postprocessors within the framework, the complete list is provided in Available Objects list section.

Example Input File

The following input file snippet demonstrates the use of the ElementExtremeValue to compute the minimum and maximum of the solution variable "u".

[Postprocessors]
  [max]
    type = ElementExtremeValue
    variable = u
  []
  [min]
    type = ElementExtremeValue
    variable = u
    value_type = min
  []
[]
(test/tests/postprocessors/element_extreme_value/element_extreme_value.i)

This snippet is a part of a test that may be executed using the MOOSE test application as follows.


cd ~/projects/moose/test
make -j8
cd tests/postprocessors/element_extreme_value
~/projects/moose/test/moose_test-opt -i element_extreme_value.i

The data from this calculation is reported in the terminal output by default and if Exodus output is enabled the values will automatically be included in the output file. It is also possible to export the data to a comma separated value (csv) file by enabling the CSV object within the Outputs block.


Postprocessor Values:
+----------------+----------------+----------------+
| time           | max            | min            |
+----------------+----------------+----------------+
|   0.000000e+00 |   0.000000e+00 |   0.000000e+00 |
|   1.000000e+00 |   9.788675e-01 |   2.113249e-02 |
+----------------+----------------+----------------+

Coupling Example Code

The values computed within a Postprocessor object may be used within other objects that inherit from the PostprocessorInterface, which is nearly every system within MOOSE. For example, the the PostprocessorNeumannBC object allows for a Neumann boundary condition to be set to a value computed from a postprocessor; this object will be used as example to demonstrate how coupling is performed.

To understand how the coupling is coded it is beneficial to first see how the coupling is defined via the input file. The following input file snippet shows that a PointValue postprocessor is created and named "right_pp" and the PostprocessorNeumannBC uses this value to set the boundary condition.

[Postprocessors]
  [right_pp]
    type = PointValue
    point = '0.5 0.5 0'
    variable = aux
    execute_on = 'initial'
  []
[]

[BCs]
  [left]
    type = DirichletBC
    variable = u
    boundary = left
    value = 0
  []
  [right]
    type = PostprocessorNeumannBC
    variable = u
    boundary = right
    postprocessor = right_pp
  []
[]
(test/tests/bcs/pp_neumann/pp_neumann.i)

This first step of coding this type of coupling begins by adding the necessary input file syntax to the object that requires a postprocessor value, PostprocessorNeumannBC in this example. In all MOOSE objects input file syntax is governed by the validParams function of an object. To add the ability to couple a postprocessor, simply add a new parameter using the PostprocessorName type, as shown below. Notice, that the add parameters call includes a default value that makes the use of the postprocessor optional.

template <>
InputParameters
validParams<PostprocessorNeumannBC>()
{
  InputParameters params = validParams<IntegratedBC>();
  params.addParam<PostprocessorName>(
      "postprocessor", 0.0, "The postprocessor to use for value of the gradient on the boundary.");
  return params;
}
(framework/src/bcs/PostprocessorNeumannBC.C)

The actual postprocessor value must be assigned to a member variable of the class, thus in the header a member variable must be created, which should always be a constant reference to a PostprocessorValue type. Since this is a reference it must be initialized, this occurs in the source file by calling the getPostprocessorValue method and providing the name used in the validParams function. The following snippets show declaration of the reference in the header and the initialization of this reference in the source file. The _value member variable is then available for use anywhere inside the object, for the case of the boundary condition it is utilized in the computation of the residual.

  const PostprocessorValue & _value;
(framework/include/bcs/PostprocessorNeumannBC.h)
PostprocessorNeumannBC::PostprocessorNeumannBC(const InputParameters & parameters)
  : IntegratedBC(parameters), _value(getPostprocessorValue("postprocessor"))
{
}
(framework/src/bcs/PostprocessorNeumannBC.C)

Creating a Postprocessor Object

In general, every Postprocessor object has two methods that must be defined "execute" and "getValue".

First, consider the execute method. This method is called by MOOSE at different time depending on the type of postprocessor object. Therefore, when creating a Postprocessor object the new object should inherit from one of the following C++ classes:

  • GeneralPostprocessor: "execute" is called once on each execution flag.

  • NodalPostprocessor: "execute" is called for each node within the mesh on each execution flag.

  • ElementalPostprocessor: "execute" is called for each element within the mesh on each execution flag.

  • InternalSidePostprocessor: "execute" is called for each side, that is not on a boundary, within the mesh on each execution flag.

  • SidePostprocessor: "execute" is called for each side, that is on a boundary, within the mesh on each execution flag.

The use of execution flags is discussed in the Execute On section.

The getValue method is responsible for returning the value of the postprocessor object, this value is what is used by all objects that are coupled to the postprocessor. In some cases the necessary communication is performed within this method, but in general this following is preferred.

Parallel Considerations

When creating a postprocessor it is often necessary to perform some parallel communication to ensure that the value being computed is correct across processes and threads. Three additional methods exists for making this process as simple as possible.

  • initialize: This is called prior to the execution of the postprocessor and should be used to setup the object to be in a known state. It is important to point out that execution in this context includes all calls to the execute method. For example, for a NodalPostprocessor object the initialize method is called and then the execute method is called for all nodes.

  • finalize: This is called after the execution of the postprocessor and is intended to perform communication to prepare the object for the call to the getValue method.

  • threadJoin: This is called after the execution of the postprocessor and is intended to perform aggregation for shared memory parallelism.

To understand the use of these methods the AverageNodalVariableValue postprocessor shall be used as an example. As the name suggests this postprocessor computes the average of the value of a variable at the nodes. To perform this calculation the variable values from each node are summed as is the number of values within the execute method. Then the getValue method returns the average by returning the sum divided by the count. The following snippet shows the these two methods: the _u[_qp] is the value of the variable at the current node that comes from a shared base class and _sum and _n are a member variables defined within class for performing the calculation.

void
AverageNodalVariableValue::execute()
{
  _sum += _u[_qp];
  _n++;
}

Real
AverageNodalVariableValue::getValue()
{
  return _sum / _n;
}
(framework/src/postprocessors/AverageNodalVariableValue.C)

In parallel, the calls to the execute method occur on each process or thread on a subset of the domain, in this case nodes. Therefore, the computed values must be combined to get the actual summations required to compute the average value. The first step is to setup the state of this calculation within the initialize method, which in this example sets the _sum and _n member variables to zero.

void
AverageNodalVariableValue::initialize()
{
  _sum = 0;
  _n = 0;
}
(framework/src/postprocessors/AverageNodalVariableValue.C)

After the aforementioned execute method is called for each node the computed values for _sum and _n must be aggregated from across processes to the root processes. For this problem a gather operation is required to collect the values computed on all processes to the root process. This is accomplished via the gatherSum method.

void
AverageNodalVariableValue::finalize()
{
  gatherSum(_sum);
  gatherSum(_n);

}
(framework/src/postprocessors/AverageNodalVariableValue.C)

Of course, the type of communication necessary depends on the calculation being performed. The UserObject base class includes helper methods for common parallel communications functions.

The initialize and finalize methods are utilized to aggregate for message passing (MPI) based parallelism. For shared memory parallelism the theadJoin method is used. This method is called, like finalize, after execution is complete and includes a single argument. This argument is a reference to a UserObject, which is a base class of Postprocessor objects. The purpose of this method is to enable the aggregation for the Postprocessor objects that were executed on other threads to the object on the root thread. For the AverageNodalVariableValue postprocessor the values for _sum and _n on the root process object are updated to include the these same values from the other threads.

void
AverageNodalVariableValue::threadJoin(const UserObject & y)
{
  const AverageNodalVariableValue & pps = static_cast<const AverageNodalVariableValue &>(y);
  _sum += pps._sum;
  _n += pps._n;
}
(framework/src/postprocessors/AverageNodalVariableValue.C)

Execute On...

Postprocessor objects inherit from the SetupInterface (execute_on) that allows the objects to execute and varying and multiple times during a simulation, such as during initialization and at the end of each time step. Refer to the SetupInterface (execute_on) for additional information.

Available Objects

Available Actions