it's been a while since you were looking into this, but I wanted to offer some help. About 2 years ago I was asking the same question. I am also a ChemE, so I can relate to the need.
(fyi-this forum will only let me post 2 links bc I just started my account here) , so here are the first two you should take a look at
SALOME and OpenFOAM
Each of the above I have tried (except CAELinux) and I chose to use Salome+OpenFOAM+Paraview. There are also some other programs that I have not tried that are more GUI based:
- CALCULIX (just found this with google)
This way of building simulations is pretty different from building with a package like Comsol. There are GUI tools for building the simulations. I have not used these because the reason that I like using Linux is that I can just look at the source code. The # of hours it takes to read through a blog, paper, or tutorial that explains how a GUI works and learning how changes through the gui modify the simulation takes as long as it does to read through the source code and think through the problem.
How I came to these conclusions...
I am also a chemical engineer and have been performing simulations for a couple of years now. I have tried several ways to do this. There are a couple of things you should consider such as:
Do you want to be able to perform more complex tasks like modifying cad files based on the output of the simulation?
How comfortable are you with programming, and code development?
I have run Comsol and Ansys myself and I see how it can be a great tool for developing opensource Multiphysics simulations because they have great:
- documentation designed for engineers not just engineers who are also
full fledged programmers
- ample # published papers utilize Comsol and Ansys
- good GUIs
In my opinion all of that comes at a cost:
1. licensing can be prohibitive
2. learning how the gui is changing the simulation adds an additional step in learning the simulation process.
3. online documentation and development for these opensource tools is huge, and the community is very helpful
4. adding more users,simulation methods, extensions, and addins all tack on a lot of additional fees.
5. your limited by what the software company will let you do within the box they have designed with the software.
I have included the longer answer so that you can understand what your working towards, Comsol Versus the opensource tool combination is apples and organges for basic usage, but if you want to do a lot of simulations at low cost, and try out new algorithms I'd go with OpenFOAM+Salome or just OpenFOAM