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OpenFOAM (Open Field Operation and Manipulation) is primarily a C++ toolbox for the customisation and extension of numerical solvers for continuum mechanics problems, including computational fluid dynamics (CFD). However, it comes with a growing collection of pre-written solvers applicable to a wide range of problems. OpenFOAM was one of the first major scientific packages written in C++.


Original development started in the late 1980's at Imperial College, London, motivated by a desire to find a more powerful and flexible general simulation platform than the defacto standard at the time, Fortran. Since then it has evolved by exploiting the latest advanced features of the C++ language, having been effectively re-written several times over. The predecessor, FOAM, was sold by UK company Nabla Ltd. before being released to the public under the GPL in 2004. It is now developed primarily by OpenCFD Ltd., with assistance from an active user community.

OpenFOAM has been pioneering in a number of ways:

  • Amongst the first major scientific packages written in C++ (other leading CFD companies have released or are working on next-generation C++ codes),
  • Use of C++ operator overloading to permit relatively simple, top-level human-readable descriptions of partial differential equations makes OpenFOAM akin to a programming language for physical simulation,
  • First major general-purpose CFD package to use polyhedral cells. This functionality is a natural consequence of the hierarchical description of simulation objects,
  • First and most capable general purpose CFD package to be released under an open-source license,


OpenFOAM compares favourably with the capabilities of most leading general-purpose commercial closed-source CFD packages. It relies on the user's choice of third party pre- and post-processing utilities, and ships with:

  • a plugin (paraFoam) for visualisation of solution data and meshes in ParaView (currently only ParaView 2.x)
  • a wide range of mesh converters allowing import from a number of leading commercial packages

  OpenFOAM was conceived as a continuum mechanics platform but is ideal for building multi-physics simulations. For example, it comes with a library and solvers for efficiently tracking particles in a multiphase flow using the lagrangian approach.

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "OpenFOAM". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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