Particle Methods in Scientific Computing

Module code: PA7113
Module co-ordinator: Professor Walter Dehnen

Intended Learning Outcomes

At the end of this module, typical students should understand the basics of particle methods in computational physics, in particular N-body simulations and smoothed particle hydrodynamics (SPH). The students will have gained some practical experience in writing and running computer code for particular aspects of particle methods, for example, a tree-based force solver, a simple SPH code, or an orbit integrator.


  • Foundations of N-body methods and gravitational softening
  • Orbit integration and symplectic integrators
  • Force solvers 1: direct methods and its approximations (tree code and the fast multipole method)
  • Force solvers 2: grid methods (FFT and multi-grid)
  • Foundations of smoothed particle hydrodynamics (SPH)
  • Conservative and non-conservative techniques
  • Artificial dissipations (viscosity, conductivity, resistivity)
  • Limitations of SPH


  • 8 hours of lectures
  • 25 hours of practicals/workshops
  • 117 hours of guided independent study


  • Project programming tasks (25%)
  • Written report (25%)
  • Presentation with viva (50%)