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  • Writer's pictureNagesh Singh Chauhan

The Role of Physics-Informed Neural Networks in Deep Learning Evolution

The article offers a thorough exploration of Physics-Informed Neural Networks (PINNs), demonstrating their application in solving the 1-D heat equation through the use of PINNs and PyTorch.


Welcome to the world of Physics-Informed Neural Networks (PINNs), where the power of physics meets the versatility of neural networks. In simple terms, PINNs are like a smart blend of deep learning and real-world knowledge, allowing computers to understand and apply the laws of physics to solve complex problems. Imagine if your computer not only learns from data but also knows the rules of the game, making it super smart in various fields like science and engineering. This article takes you on a journey to discover how PINNs can turbocharge deep learning, making our machines not just smart but also savvy in handling real-world challenges.

What is Physics Informed Neural Networks(PINNs)?

A Physics-Informed Neural Network (PINN) is a type of neural network architecture designed to incorporate physical principles or equations into the learning process. It combines deep learning techniques with domain-specific knowledge, making it particularly suitable for problems governed by physics.

PINNs lie at the intersection between neural networks and physics. Credits

PINNs are designed to solve supervised learning tasks for modeling physical systems and phenomena. This could involve tasks like modeling fluid flows, quantum mechanics, combustion, etc.

In addition to standard data-driven training, PINNs utilize terms in the loss function to enforce consistency with known physical laws, equations, and constraints. For example, conservation of mass and momentum equations for fluid flow.

By combining data-driven supervised learning with physics-based constraints, PINNs can accurately model physical systems even with limited or sparse data. The physical losses regularize the network.

For example, the Navier–Stokes equations are a set of partial differential equations derived from the conservation laws (i.e., conservation of mass, momentum, and energy) that govern fluid mechanics.

The solution of the Navier–Stokes equations with appropriate initial and boundary conditions allows the quantification of flow dynamics in a precisely defined geometry. However, these equations cannot be solved exactly and therefore numerical methods must be used (such as finite differences, finite elements and finite volumes). In this setting, these governing equations must be solved while accounting for prior assumptions, linearization, and adequate time and space discretization.

The key characteristics of PINNs include:

  1. Incorporation of Physics Equations: PINNs integrate known physical laws and equations into the neural network architecture. This incorporation helps ensure that the model respects fundamental principles, making it suitable for solving problems governed by physical laws.

  2. Partial Differential Equations (PDEs) Solution: PINNs are designed to solve PDEs, which describe the behavior of physical systems. They can learn and predict solutions to these equations, making them particularly useful for problems in physics, engineering, and other scientific domains.

  3. Data Efficiency: PINNs require fewer training data points compared to traditional machine learning methods. This is because they leverage both physical knowledge encoded in equations and available data, making them efficient for problems with limited labeled data.

  4. Hybrid Learning: PINNs combine supervised learning with physical principles. The model learns from observational data while simultaneously adhering to governing equations. This hybrid learning approach enhances the model's ability to generalize well beyond the training dataset.

  5. Mesh-Free Approach: PINNs do not rely on a predefined mesh for solving PDEs. This mesh-free characteristic allows them to handle irregular geometries and adapt to complex physical scenarios without the need for a structured grid.

  6. Multifidelity Learning: PINNs can integrate information from different fidelity sources, combining high-fidelity physics-based models with low-fidelity or experimental data. This enables the model to leverage diverse information for improved accuracy.

  7. Regularization through Physics Constraints: PINNs incorporate physical constraints as regularization terms during training. This ensures that the learned solutions align with the underlying physical laws, preventing the model from deviating into unrealistic or unphysical regimes.

  8. Inverse Problems Solving: PINNs are capable of solving inverse problems, where the goal is to infer parameters or conditions given observed data. This versatility makes them applicable in a wide range of scenarios, including parameter estimation and material characterization.

  9. Adaptability to Noisy Data: PINNs can handle data with noise and uncertainties. The incorporation of physics-based constraints aids in filtering out noise and producing more robust predictions in the presence of data imperfections.

Overall, Physics-Informed Neural Networks bridge the gap between data-driven machine learning approaches and the explicit incorporation of physical knowledge, making them powerful tools for solving problems in physics and engineering.

How Physics-Informed Neural Networks work?

PINNs have a similar architecture to standard neural networks, with input, hidden, and output layers. The key difference is that the loss function includes terms that constrain the network to satisfy physical laws and equations.

For example, if modeling fluid flow, the loss function would include a term that enforces conservation of mass by minimizing the residual of the continuity equation. Other physical constraints like boundary/initial conditions can also be encoded.

By combining standard data-driven loss terms with physics-based loss terms, PINNs learn a solution that is consistent with both the data and physical principles. This allows them to accurately model physical systems even with limited or sparse data.

PINNs are trained by minimizing the hybrid loss function using standard gradient-based optimization techniques like backpropagation and stochastic gradient descent. The physics-based loss terms guide the network to learn the necessary physical relationships.

After training, PINNs can be used like standard neural networks to make predictions. But these predictions will obey relevant physical laws, unlike a pure data-driven model. This makes PINNs very useful for modeling complex physics in fields like fluid dynamics, mechanics, and more.

Let's delve into the Physics-Informed Neural Network (PINN) methodology using mathematical equations. Consider a generic partial differential equation (PDE) as follows:

Here, u represents the solution to the PDE, and F is a function that encapsulates the differential operators and other terms in the PDE. The goal is to find a neural network(NN) that approximates the solution u.

Now, let's define the loss function for the PINN:

Loss = Physics Loss + Data Loss

Physics Loss:

  • The physics loss is derived from the PDE itself. For a simple example, let's consider the heat equation:

  • The physics loss for this PDE might be defined as:

Data Loss:

  • The data loss compares the predicted solution NN(x, t) to the available observational data uobs.

Combined Loss:

  • The combined loss is then minimized during training:

  • The neural network parameters are adjusted through optimization to minimize this loss.


  • The training process involves feeding spatial (x) and temporal (t) coordinates, along with any available observational data, into the PINN and adjusting the neural network weights to minimize the combined loss.


  • Once trained, the PINN can predict the solution u at any point in the domain, even in regions without labeled data.

This is a simplified representation, and the actual implementation may involve additional considerations depending on the specific PDE and problem at hand. The key idea is to integrate the physics directly into the loss function, enabling the neural network to learn solutions that adhere to the underlying physical laws.

Solve 1D head Equation using PINN and Pytorch

"Now, let's delve into solving the 1D heat equation employing Physics-Informed Neural Networks (PINNs). Before we proceed, it's essential to grasp the connection between the 1D heat equation and PINNs."

The 1D heat equation is a partial differential equation (PDE) that describes how the distribution of heat in a one-dimensional object changes over time. The equation is typically given as:

This equation models how heat spreads through a material, and its solution provides the temperature distribution at different positions and times.

Physics-Informed Neural Networks (PINNs) can be applied to solve PDEs like the 1D heat equation. PINNs combine physics-based constraints (the PDE itself) with data-driven machine learning to approximate the solution to the PDE. In the context of the 1D heat equation, PINNs use neural networks to learn the spatial and temporal variations of temperature, satisfying the PDE and the boundary/initial conditions.

The schematic of physics-informed neural network (PINN) for solving partial differential equations. Credits

The neural network in a PINN takes spatial and temporal coordinates as input and outputs the predicted temperature. The loss function includes terms enforcing the satisfaction of the PDE and the boundary/initial conditions. By minimizing this loss, the PINN learns a representation of the temperature distribution that satisfies both the physics of the heat equation and the available data.

The heat equation is u_t = α*u_xx, where u is the temperature, t is time, x is the spatial coordinate, and α is the thermal diffusivity.

import torch
import torch.nn as nn

class PINN(nn.Module):
    def __init__(self, layers):
        super(PINN, self).__init__()
        self.layers = layers = nn.Sequential()
        for i in range(len(layers) - 2):
  'layer_{i}', nn.Linear(layers[i], layers[i+1]))
  'activation_{i}', nn.Tanh())'output', nn.Linear(layers[-2], layers[-1]))

    def forward(self, x, t):
        X =[x, t], dim=1)
        u =
        return u

    def net_u(self, x, t):
      u = self.forward(x, t)

      # First derivatives
      u_t = torch.autograd.grad(u, t, grad_outputs=torch.ones_like(u), create_graph=True)[0]
      u_x = torch.autograd.grad(u, x, grad_outputs=torch.ones_like(u), create_graph=True)[0]

      # Second derivatives
      u_xx = torch.autograd.grad(u_x, x, grad_outputs=torch.ones_like(u_x), create_graph=True)[0]

      return u, u_t, u_xx

def heat_equation_loss(pinn, x, t, alpha):
    u, u_t, u_xx = pinn.net_u(x, t)
    f = u_t - alpha*u_xx
    return torch.mean(f**2)

# Define your PINN
pinn = PINN([2, 50, 50, 50, 50, 1])
optimizer = torch.optim.Adam(pinn.parameters(), lr = 0.01)

# Define the spatial and time domain
# Define a larger spatial domain
x = torch.linspace(0, 100, 1000).reshape(-1, 1)

# Define a larger temporal domain
t = torch.linspace(0, 100, 1000).reshape(-1, 1)


This code defines a simple feedforward neural network with Tanh activation functions. The net_u method computes the solution u and its first and second derivatives with respect to x, and the first derivative with respect to t.

The heat_equation_loss function computes the residual of the heat equation, which is used to train the network.

The architecture of the neural network is defined by the sequence [2, 50, 50, 50, 50, 1]. The initial element, 2, signifies the input layer, implying that the network anticipates input data with two features. The successive elements, 50, 50, 50, 50, denote hidden layers, each consisting of 50 neurons and employing the hyperbolic tangent (Tanh) activation function. The final element, 1, designates the output layer, indicating that the network generates a single output.

Next, lets train the network:

final_losses = []
epochs = 100
# Training loop
for it in range(epochs):
    loss = heat_equation_loss(pinn, x, t, alpha=0.01)
    if it%50==1:
        print("Epoch number: {} and the loss : {}".format(it,loss.item()))

Plot the loss function:

### plot the loss function
import matplotlib.pyplot as plt
%matplotlib inline
with torch.no_grad():

Please note that this is a simplified example and does not include any boundary conditions or initial conditions. You would need to modify this code to include those, and you may also need to adjust the architecture of the neural network, the choice of optimizer, and the training loop to suit your specific problem. Also, this code assumes a 1D problem for simplicity. For a 2D or 3D problem, you would need to extend this code accordingly.


In conclusion, the integration of Physics-Informed Neural Networks (PINNs) stands as a transformative approach that holds immense potential for enhancing deep learning methods. By seamlessly incorporating physical laws and constraints into neural network architectures, PINNs offer a unique synergy between data-driven approaches and domain-specific knowledge.

As we delve deeper into the realm of AI applications, the marriage of physics-based priors with neural networks exemplifies a promising avenue for advancing the capabilities of deep learning, ushering in a new era of intelligent and context-aware systems.


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