Cholla: A new massively parallel hydrodynamics code for astrophysical simulation

Evan E. Schneider, Brant E. Robertson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


We present Computational Hydrodynamics On ParaLLel Architectures (Cholla ), a new three-dimensional hydrodynamics code that harnesses the power of graphics processing units (GPUs) to accelerate astrophysical simulations. Cholla models the Euler equations on a static mesh using state-of-the-art techniques, including the unsplit Corner Transport Upwind algorithm, a variety of exact and approximate Riemann solvers, and multiple spatial reconstruction techniques including the piecewise parabolic method (PPM). Using GPUs, Cholla evolves the fluid properties of thousands of cells simultaneously and can update over 10 million cells per GPU-second while using an exact Riemann solver and PPM reconstruction. Owing to the massively parallel architecture of GPUs and the design of the Cholla code, astrophysical simulations with physically interesting grid resolutions (2563) can easily be computed on a single device. We use the Message Passing Interface library to extend calculations onto multiple devices and demonstrate nearly ideal scaling beyond 64 GPUs. A suite of test problems highlights the physical accuracy of our modeling and provides a useful comparison to other codes. We then use Cholla to simulate the interaction of a shock wave with a gas cloud in the interstellar medium, showing that the evolution of the cloud is highly dependent on its density structure. We reconcile the computed mixing time of a turbulent cloud with a realistic density distribution destroyed by a strong shock with the existing analytic theory for spherical cloud destruction by describing the system in terms of its median gas density.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number24
JournalAstrophysical Journal, Supplement Series
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1 2015


  • hydrodynamics
  • methods: numerical

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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