From OpenFOAMWiki

IHFOAM is a set of solvers and boundary conditions to generate and absorb water waves actively at the boundaries and to simulate their interaction with porous coastal structures.

The main scope of these modelling tools is coastal, marine, hydraulic and offshore engineering.

1 IHFOAM Overview

IHFOAM is a newly developed three-dimensional numerical two-phase flow solver specially designed to simulate coastal, offshore and hydraulic engineering processes. Its core is based on OpenFOAM®, a very advanced multiphysics model, widely used in the industry. What makes IHFOAM different from the rest of solvers is a wide collection of boundary conditions which handle wave generation and active absorption at the boundaries.

These specific boundary conditions allow to generate any type of wave in a 3D domain, from the most simple regular waves (Stokes I, II and V, streamfunction…) to complex, real and fully 3D irregular (random) directional sea states.

Active wave absorption has been programmed to work simultaneously with the wave generation to absorb any incident waves on the boundaries. These features do not increase the computational cost noticeably, and there is no need to extend the numerical domain, as it occurs with relaxation zones. Moreover, they allow for longer and more stable simulations without increasing water level or agitation. Currently the model can be applied to solve any impervious structures, both static and dynamic (floating structures). Some examples that have been simulated include: wave interaction with obstacles as vertical breakwaters, ships, offshore foundations, dam and spillway simulations, open channel flow…

The simulations can be at laboratory or prototype scale, for which domains over 1 square kilometer have been calculated. Needless to say, a thorough validation with well-known laboratory tests has been carried out and is published in Coastal Engineering. IHFOAM can also solve two-phase flow within porous media by means of the VARANS equations. This new approach will extend the calculation range for any type of coastal structures (e.g. rubble mound breakwaters).

OpenFOAM® is a registered trade mark of OpenCFD Limited, producer and distributor of the OpenFOAM software via


IHFOAM-GUI has been designed following the request of many IHFOAM users to decrease the learning curve in the use of OpenFOAM® for coastal and ocean engineering. It is more than a standard OpenFOAM® GUI since it is especially designed to deal with free surface flows. The user will be able to set-up, in a short time, a numerical wave tank to analyze the interaction of waves with coastal and offshore structures. IHFOAM-GUI builds up the folders and the files needed to set-up a case guiding the user along several menus. Additionally, numerical proves can be inserted and post-processed along the GUI menu.

IHFOAM-GUI is freely downloadable from the following link including a tutorial:

IHFOAM-GUI has been designed within the Coastal Hydrodynamics and Infrastructures Group in IHCantabria comprised by ten members. Future IHFOAM developments will be included in OpenFOAM® to be released by ESI Group and included in IHFOAM-GUI.

IHCantabria developments has passed along a thorough validation with existing or tailored designed laboratory tests. Validation results are published in peer reviewed journals. Visit our web page for further details.

1.2 Ongoing Development

  • The current version is IHFOAM-v2.0.
  • In 2016, IHCantabria reached an agreement with ESI Group to include the IHFOAM developments in OpenFOAM® releases, which are presented every six months.

1.3 References and Citing

IHFOAM is a product developed in the Environmental Hydraulics Institute "IH Cantabria" of the University of Cantabria.. If you want to reference the model in your publications it should be called IHFOAM.

The implementation and validation details are published in the following references:

   Solitary wave attenuation by vegetation patches.
   Maza, M, Lara, J.L., & Losada, I.J. [2016]
   Advances in Water Resources [Vol.98, pp. 159-172] 
   Validation of OpenFOAM® for Oscillating Water Column three-dimensional modeling.
   Iturrioz, A., Guanche, R., Lara, J.L., Vidal, C., & Losada, I.J. [2015]
   Ocean Engineering [Vol. 107, pp. 222-237]
   Tsunami wave interaction with mangrove forests: A 3-D numerical approach.
   Maza, M, Lara, J.L., & Losada, I.J. [2015]
   Coastal Engineering [Vol.98, pp. 33-54]
   Three-dimensional numerical wave generation with moving boundaries.
   Higuera, P., Lara, J.L. & Losada, I.J. [2015]
   Coastal Engineering [Vol.101, pp. 35-47]
   Three-Dimensional Interaction of Waves and Porous Coastal Structures using OpenFOAM®. Part II: Application.
   Higuera, P., Lara, J.L. & Losada, I.J. [2014]
   Coastal Engineering [Vol. 83, pp. 259-270]
   Three-Dimensional Interaction of Waves and Porous Coastal Structures using OpenFOAM®. Part I: Formulation and Validation.
   Higuera, P., Lara, J.L. & Losada, I.J. [2014]
   Coastal Engineering [Vol. 83, pp. 243-258]
   Simulating Coastal Engineering Processes with OpenFOAM®.
   Higuera, P., Lara, J.L. & Losada, I.J. [2013]
   Coastal Engineering [Vol. 71, pp. 119-134]
   Realistic Wave Generation and Active Wave Absorption for Navier-­Stokes Models. Application to OpenFOAM®.
   Higuera, P., Lara, J.L. & Losada, I.J. [2013]
   Coastal Engineering [Vol. 71, pp. 102-118]

2 Source Download and Compilation

IHFOAM download site can be found here.

2.1 Source Code Download

You can find IHFOAM in GitHub, and it can be downloaded in zip format.

For a more convenient download of the source code, run the following command:

git clone git://

If the git protocol is blocked in your network try either of the following commands:

git clone
git clone

Code updates can be downloaded in the future from the IHFOAM folder as follows:

git checkout
git pull

Recompilation is required to apply the changes.

2.2 Source Code Structure

IHFOAM source code is divided in two main topics:

  • generation
    • Stokes-I
    • Stokes-II
    • Stokes-V
    • Cnoidal
    • solitary Boussinesq
    • solitary Grimshaw
    • solitary McCowan
  • absorption
    • Shallow Water Absorption

2.3 OpenFOAM version

IHFOAM-v2.0 is a new set of boundary conditions, which are formulated using a new concept based on the introduction of mass and momentum along the boundaries, improves the ones initially develop by IHCantabria in 2014 and working with OpenCFD developers reduces the computational cost by around a 30%.

IHCantabria has contributed to releases v1612+ and v1706, presented in December 2016 and June 2017, respectively. Both releases included a new set of boundary conditions to generate and absorb waves at the boundaries without the use of dissipation areas to damp wave energy

3 IHFOAM Documentation and Tutorials

The IHFOAM documentation and tutorials are not included in the Github bundle. Instead, they can be downloaded under request in the following site:

Upon registration you will receive an e-mail with the download link. We kindly ask you to respect this procedure, and not to redistribute the download link, as the information regarding how many people, where and how are using the code is important for us. As stated on the Terms and Conditions, your personal information (i.e. name and e-mail) will never be shared. You can also sign up for the mailing list, to get the latest information about IHFOAM new releases and training courses.