Data Transfer Kit (DTK)

Solution transfer for multiphysics simulations.


Data Transfer Kit (DTK)

The Data Transfer Kit (DTK) is an open-source software library designed to provide parallel services for solution transfer for multiphysics simulations. DTK uses a general operator design to provide scalable parallel services for solution transfer between shared volumes and surfaces.

DTK was originally developed at the University of Wisconsin - Madison as part of the Computational Nuclear Engineering Group (CNERG) group and is now actively developed at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory as part of the Computational Engineering and Energy Sciences (CEES) group

DTK is supported and used by the following Department of Energy multiphysics modeling and simulation programs:

and the following Department of Transportation programs:

DataTransferKit Development Team

DTK is developed and maintained by:

DataTransferKit Packages

DTK has the following packages:

Utils General utilities for software development including exception handling, MPI-based tools, and functional programming tools.

Interface Core DTK interface package. Interfaces are divided into two categories: Client and Operator. Client interfaces define a polymorphic API implemented by client applications providing access to mesh, geometry, parallel decomposition, shape functions, and parametric mappings. Operator interfaces define the general operator and vector objects for solution transfer and other concepts for constructing solution transfer operators from client code.

Operators DTK solution transfer operator implementation package. Operators contains parallel implementations of the following algorithms:

* L2 Projection
* Shape function interpolation
* Moving least square reconstruction with degenerate geometry
* Spline interpolation
* Direct node-to-node transfer

Adapters Client interface adapters for common mesh databases, discretization libraries, and geometric objects. Implementations include:

* Sierra Toolkit Mesh (STK Mesh) <>

* Intrepid: Interoperable Tools for Rapid dEveloPment of
  compatIble Discretizations

* MOAB: A Mesh-Oriented datABase

* libMesh - A C++ Finite Element Library

* Basic geometric objects

* Classic DTK. The classic adapters provide DTK services using the (now
  deprecated) version 1.0 API using the new 2.0 implementation. See the
  notes below for more details.

* C Interfaces. Provides basic C interfaces to a subset of DTK algorithms.

* Fortran Interfaces. Provides basic Fortran interfaces to a subset of DTK

Outside of the DTK source code, other applications have
implementations of the DTK client interfaces in their code base
that may be used to leverage the DTK services and interoperate
with other libraries that have implemented the interfaces. These

* AMP: Advanced Multi-Physics

* Albany mulitphysics code <>

Notes on Classic DTK Adapters This can serve as a starting point for migrating from version 1.0 to 2.0 but note that the classic adapters only have version 1.0 functionality - no version 2.0 functionality is provided. To use these adapters, simply build them and your code should link. See the unit tests in the classic adapters directory for examples of these changes.

Questions, Bug Reporting, and Issue Tracking

Questions, bug reporting and issue tracking are provided by GitHub. Please report all bugs by creating a new issue. You can ask questions by emailing the developers or by creating a issue with the question tag.


Publications to date related to DataTransferKit:

  • S. Slattery, “Mesh-Free Data Transfer Algorithms for Partitioned Multiphysics Problems: Conservation, Accuracy, and Parallelism”, Journal of Computational Physics, vol. 307, pp. 164-188, 2016.

  • S. Slattery, S. Hamilton, T. Evans, “A Modified Moving Least Square Algorithm for Solution Transfer on a Spacer Grid Surface”, ANS MC2015 - Joint International Conference on Mathematics and Computation (M&C), Supercomputing in Nuclear Applications (SNA) and the Monte Carlo (MC) Method, Nashville, Tennessee · April 19–23, 2015, on CD-ROM, American Nuclear Society, LaGrange Park, IL (2015).

  • R. Schmidt, K. Belcourt, R. Hooper, R. Pawlowski, K. Clarno, S. Simunovic, S. Slattery, J. Turner, S. Palmtag, “An Approach for Coupled-Code Multiphysics Core Simulations from a Common Input”, Annals of Nuclear Energy, Volume 84, pp. 140-152, 2014.

  • S. Slattery, P.P.H. Wilson, R. Pawlowski, “The Data Transfer Kit: A Geometric Rendezvous-Based Tool for Multiphysics Data Transfer”, International Conference on Mathematics and Computational Methods Applied to Nuclear Science & Engineering (M&C 2013), American Nuclear Society, Sun Valley, ID, May 5-9, 2013.


DataTransferKit is designed to build and run with a minimum number of dependencies and is structured largely as a Trilinos package. The dependenices and third-party libraries (TPLs) necessary to build DTK are all open-source and freely available. The Dependencies for DTK are listed in the following table:

Dependency Required Comments
C++11 Yes GNU, Intel, and Clang are suggested
DTKData Yes Large binary files for tests/examples
TriBITS Yes Build system provided with Trilinos
Trilinos Yes Release 12.0 is required at minimum
BLAS/LAPACK Yes Use vendor-specific implementation
MPI No OpenMPI and MPICH are suggested
MOAB No Required to build MOAB adapters
libMesh No Required to build libMesh adapters
Boost No Required to build the C/Fortran API

You can get the most recent Trilinos version at

To use build some examples and tests you will need the DTKData repository which can be found at Simply check out the repository into the top level DataTransferKit directory or provide a soft link of to the location of the repository.

Building DTK

The following steps can be followed to build DTK with MPI support as well as tests and examples. First, checkout DataTransferKit (assumed to be in a directory named DataTransferKit for these instructions). Next create a soft link to the cloned copy of the DTKData repository::

> cd DataTransferKit

After this, we need to create a soft link of DTK into the main Trilinos directory. We do this because DTK is a TriBITS package and will build as a part of the Trilinos build, effectively becoming a linkable package include among the larger group of Trilinos packages. We create this link as::


TriBITS is a CMake-based meta-build system used by Trilinos. Although freely available on GitHub, a version is also included as a snapshot in Trilinos and we use that version here. To setup the build we will make two directories; one for building and one for installing::


Next we can run a build shell script that executes CMake with a number of options to configure both Trilinos and DataTransferKit::


# Clear previous configure
rm -rf CMakeCache.txt
rm -rf CMakeFiles

cmake \
-D Trilinos_ENABLE_CXX11:BOOL=ON \
-D Trilinos_EXTRA_REPOSITORIES="DataTransferKit" \
-D Trilinos_ENABLE_DataTransferKit:BOOL=ON \
-D DataTransferKit_ENABLE_DBC:BOOL=ON \

Some details on the script:

  • Changing the variable CMAKE_BUILD_TYPE from DEBUG to RELEASE will produce an optimized build instead of debug build.

  • MPI_BASE_DIR:PATH=$PATH_TO_MPI_INSTALL tells CMake where the MPI installation you would like to use resides. If you only have one and it is set in your environment, simply setting TPL_ENABLE_MPI:BOOL=ON can be enough.

  • TPL_BLAS_LIBRARIES and TPL_LAPACK_LIBRARIES point to the BLAS and LAPACK libraries installed on your system.

  • Trilinos_EXTRA_REPOSITORIES="DataTransferKit" indicates to TriBITS that we are adding DataTransferKit as an additional Trilinos package.

  • Trilinos_ENABLE_DataTransferKit:BOOL=ON instructs TriBITS to build DataTransferKit

  • DataTransferKit_ENABLE_DBC toggles the DataTransferKit Design-by-Contract feature ON or OFF. This feature adds many layers of checks into the code useful for debugging purposes at that cost of significant additional runtime. Enabling the feature is recommended for new users to verify inputs and implementations. This feature should be disabled for production calculations once an implementation is tested.

  • DataTransferKit_ENABLE_TESTS toggles if unit tests are ON or OFF

  • DataTransferKit_ENABLE_EXAMPLES=ON toggles if examples are ON or OFF

To build other packages of DTK, the syntax is similar. For example, to add the Moab client interface implementations to the build add the following::

-D Trilinos_ENABLE_DataTransferKitMoabAdapters:BOOL=ON \

Configuration, building, testing, installing (assuming DataTransferKit_ENABLE_TESTS is ON) then proceeds as follows assuming 8 threads are available for building and testing::

> ./
> make -j8
> ctest -j8
> make -j8 install

It is always recommended to build and run unit tests when installing DTK to ensure that the installation process was correct and that DTK has no bugs dependent on your system. If your application code using DTK is not working and unit tests are failing, this can help the developers track down the problem.