Methods for parameterizing and exploring Pareto frontiers using barycentric coordinates

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Daskilewicz, Matthew John
German, Brian J.
Mavris, Dimitri N.
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The research objective of this dissertation is to create and demonstrate methods for parameterizing the Pareto frontiers of continuous multi-attribute design problems using barycentric coordinates, and in doing so, to enable intuitive exploration of optimal trade spaces. This work is enabled by two observations about Pareto frontiers that have not been previously addressed in the engineering design literature. First, the observation that the mapping between non-dominated designs and Pareto efficient response vectors is a bijection almost everywhere suggests that points on the Pareto frontier can be inverted to find their corresponding design variable vectors. Second, the observation that certain common classes of Pareto frontiers are topologically equivalent to simplices suggests that a barycentric coordinate system will be more useful for parameterizing the frontier than the Cartesian coordinate systems typically used to parameterize the design and objective spaces. By defining such a coordinate system, the design problem may be reformulated from y = f(x) to (y,x) = g(p) where x is a vector of design variables, y is a vector of attributes and p is a vector of barycentric coordinates. Exploration of the design problem using p as the independent variables has the following desirable properties: 1) Every vector p corresponds to a particular Pareto efficient design, and every Pareto efficient design corresponds to a particular vector p. 2) The number of p-coordinates is equal to the number of attributes regardless of the number of design variables. 3) Each attribute y_i has a corresponding coordinate p_i such that increasing the value of p_i corresponds to a motion along the Pareto frontier that improves y_i monotonically. The primary contribution of this work is the development of three methods for forming a barycentric coordinate system on the Pareto frontier, two of which are entirely original. The first method, named "non-domination level coordinates," constructs a coordinate system based on the (k-1)-attribute non-domination levels of a discretely sampled Pareto frontier. The second method is based on a modification to an existing "normal boundary intersection" multi-objective optimizer that adaptively redistributes its search basepoints in order to sample from the entire frontier uniformly. The weights associated with each basepoint can then serve as a coordinate system on the frontier. The third method, named "Pareto simplex self-organizing maps" uses a modified a self-organizing map training algorithm with a barycentric-grid node topology to iteratively conform a coordinate grid to the sampled Pareto frontier.
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