About IREP data types

IREP is a tool for generating an “intermediate representation” of Lua input decks for simulation codes. It allows Lua inputs to be read as plain old struct data from multiple languages (C, C++, and Fortran).

This file provides a quick refernce on IREP data types. More on IREP can be found on GitHub.


All Lua numbers are double precision floating point numbers, conforming to the IEEE 754 standard. You can write numeric constants in a Lua input file using any of the usual forms:

4 0.4 4.57e-3 0.3e12 5E+20

Although IREP has both C++ and Fortran code internally, Lua input is the same for both. Note that Lua does not accept otherwise standard Fortran syntax for double precision constants: 4.57d-3. You must use e or E to indicate the exponent.

Vector doubles

Like scalar doubles, vector doubles are stored as double precision floating point numbers. A vector is a 1-dimensional array of scalars, and is defined in Lua using the usual syntax:

x = { 3, 6, 9 }

This defines an array x such that x[1] == 3, etc. In Lua, the length of the array could vary, and is given by the set of values assigned to it. When using IREP, the maximum length of an input vector is limited. The limit is denoted in brackets (e.g., double[10]) in the documentation.

Sometimes the maximum number of elements is a not-to-exceed upper bound. This is usually some high number like double[99]. For other fields, the maximum number of elements is exactly the number of elements you are required to enter, e.g. double[3] for a 3-dimensional vector. IREP does not distinguish between the two cases so you’ll need to consult the documentation for each field.


Lua integers are represented internally by double precision floating point numbers. Thus, all integers whose absolute value is less than or equal to 2^53 can be represented exactly as a Lua number.

In Lua, the literal constant 37 is the same value as 37.0. It would not be a (Lua) error to write

x = 37
x = 37.0
x = 37.000001

However, IREP does distinguish integer input parameters from double precision parameters. If x is an integer input parameter, the third line above would produce an error.

Vector integers

Integer vector input variables are 1-dimensional arrays of integers:

i = { 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30 }

In Lua, the length of the array might vary. With IREP, the maximum length is limited, and is denoted in brackets (e.g., integer[10]) in the documentation.


The Lua boolean type has two values false and true. These produce the expected result when they represent a IREP boolean or logical parameter.

In Lua, conditional tests consider either false or nil as logically false. Everything else is true, including the number 0 and the empty string, ''.

Vector booleans

Boolean or logical vector input variables are 1-dimensional arrays of boolean or logical values:

bb = { true, false, true }

In Lua, the length of the array can vary. With IREP, the maximum length is limited, and is denoted in brackets (e.g., boolean[10]) in the documentation.


Lua strings can be written using either single quote or double quote to delimit them. In Lua, the length of the string varies with the length of the value assigned to it. However, IREP input parameters do have a specific maximum length. The maximium length of a string is denoted in parentheses, e.g. string(256) in the documentation.

Vector strings

String vector input variables are 1-dimensional arrays of strings:

s = { "abc", "defg", "hijkl" }

In Lua, the length of the array, and the length of each string in the array might vary. In IREP, the maximum number of elements is limited, and is denoted in brackets (e.g., string(32)[64]) in the documentation. The maximum length of each string is shown in parentheses, as with scalar strings.

Callback functions

Lua functions are an important part of IREP interfaces. They can be used to define fields, e.g., you might define a physical field as a functions of three space variables and one time variable.

All input parameters for IREP’s Lua functions are double precision numbers, as are all the return values. If the function returns one value, it defines a scalar field. Functions returning multiple values can be used to define vector (or sometimes tensor) fields.

In the documentation, the arity (number of parameters) of a function is denoted with a /, and the number of return values is shown after a right arrow (→). For example, a function that takes one parameter and returns three values would be denoted as:

callback/1 → 3

Functions that return constant values are common enough to receive special treatment in IREP. You can always write a constant function as a normal Lua function:

initial_conditions = {
  temperature = function(x,y,z,t) return 0.0 end,

would set the temperature field to zero everywhere, for all times. More conveniently, in IREP, you can also write it as

initial_conditions = {
  temperature = 0.0,

IREP knows that initial_conditions.temperature is a function, so it will interpret the second syntax correctly. If the function in question is vector-valued (and you want to return a constant value), you can either write a vector function, use an array, or use a scalar. A scalar value will be broadcast to all components of the return value. (But note that broadcasting only applies to constant scalar return values – if you write a Lua function, it must return all required components.)

initial_conditions = {
  velocity = function(x,y,z,t) return 1.0, 2.0, 3.0 end,

initial_conditions = {
  velocity = { 1.0, 2.0, 3.0 },

initial_conditions = {
  velocity = 0.0, -- equivalent to { 0,0,0 }

Defining an IREP callback function as a number or array generally executes faster than calling a regular Lua function, so this is a good technique to keep in mind.

One other special kind of callback function defines the number of return values as -1 (e.g., callback/3 → -1). This means that the function can return a one-dimensional array of arbitrary length. (Or you can return a Lua table). Function-specific documentation should normally give some additional information to help you write an actual instance of the function.