Encoding physics to learn reaction-diffusion processes

Modeling complex spatiotemporal dynamical systems, such as the reaction-diffusion processes, have largely relied on partial differential equations (PDEs). However, due to insufficient prior knowledge on some under-explored dynamical systems, such as those in chemistry, biology, geology, physics and ecology, and the lack of explicit PDE formulation used for describing the nonlinear process of the system variables, to predict the evolution of such a system remains a challenging task. Unifying measurement data and our limited prior physics knowledge via machine learning provides us with a new path to solving this problem. Existing physics-informed learning paradigms impose physics laws through soft penalty constraints, whose solution quality largely depends on a trial-and-error proper setting of hyperparameters. Since the core of such methods is still rooted in black-box neural networks, the resulting model generally lacks interpretability and suffers from critical issues of extrapolation and generalization. To this end, we propose a deep learning framework that forcibly encodes given physics structure to facilitate the learning of the spatiotemporal dynamics in sparse data regimes. We show how the proposed approach can be applied to a variety of problems regarding the PDE system, including forward and inverse analysis, data-driven modeling, and discovery of PDEs. The resultant learning paradigm that encodes physics shows high accuracy, robustness, interpretability and generalizability demonstrated via extensive numerical experiments.

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