top of page

Unbalanced Optimal Transport For Stochastic Particle Tracking

Kairui Hao, Atharva Hans, Pavlos Vlachos, Ilias Bilionis

Purdue University, West Lafayette, United States


Non-invasive flow measurement techniques, such as particle tracking velocimetry, resolve 3D velocity fields by pairing tracer particle positions in successive time steps. These trajectories are crucial for evaluating physical quantities like vorticity, shear stress, pressure, and coherent structures. Traditional approaches deterministically reconstruct particle positions and extract particle tracks using tracking algorithms. However, reliable track estimation is challenging due to measurement noise caused by high particle density, particle image overlap, and falsely reconstructed 3D particle positions. To overcome this challenge, probabilistic approaches quantify the epistemic uncertainty in particle positions, typically using a Gaussian probability distribution. However, the standard deterministic tracking algorithms relying on nearest-neighbor search do not directly extend to the probabilistic setting. Moreover, such algorithms do not necessarily find globally consistent solutions robust to reconstruction errors. This paper aims to develop a globally consistent nearest-neighborhood algorithm that robustly extracts stochastic particle tracks from the reconstructed Gaussian particle distributions in all frames. Our tracking algorithm relies on the unbalanced optimal transport theory in the metric space of Gaussian measures. Specifically, we optimize a binary transport plan for efficiently moving the Gaussian distributions of reconstructed particle positions between time frames. We achieve this by computing the partial Wasserstein distance in the metric space of Gaussian measures. Our tracking algorithm is robust to position reconstruction errors since it automatically detects the number of particles that should be matched through hyperparameter optimization. Notably, our tracking algorithm also readily applies to the standard deterministic PTV case. Finally, we validate our method using an in vitro flow experiment using a 3D-printed cerebral aneurysm.

bottom of page