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Univ. of Illinois launches $16 million center

Tue, 07/16/2013 - 8:31am

The Univ. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign will receive $16 million to fund a new center that will leverage extreme-scale computing to predict how plasmas could be used to control combustion. The research may pave the way for cleaner-burning combustors and more reliable and higher performance jet engines.

The Center for Exascale Simulation of Plasma-Coupled Combustion will be funded for five years by the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), part of the U.S. Dept. of Energy. The center, one of three Multidisciplinary Simulation Centers funded through NNSA’s Predictive Science Academic Alliance Program II, comprises of researchers from Illinois and the Ohio State Univ.

In a normal combustion event, many steps occur between the spark and the firing of an engine. Control of the intermediary steps is not possible with current technology. However, plasma has properties that enable intervention at intermediary steps. Plasma can create the same chemical species that occur during normal combustions and also can produce heat during the different phases, making the chemical process happen faster.

By using plasmas as a control mechanism, researchers believe they can manage the chemical process, thereby reducing emissions of greenhouse gases into the environment. Plasmas could also help stabilize flames for hypersonic, high-speed jet engines, in which air passes through so fast that the flame can be extinguished.

But understanding just how to manage plasma is a difficult problem, requiring 3-D, fluid computer simulations that can cover many space and time scales. To make reliable predictions, researchers need scalable computational resources to model and analyze the physics components, which range from flow turbulence to electrodynamics.

The efforts will include the development of new technologies for heterogeneous petascale and exascale systems. Computer scientists and engineers will create better tools for managing efficient data structures; mitigate the irregularities that come with both extreme-scale computing and the fluid nature of the chemical processes; develop novel computational and programming tools for mapping hardware architectures; and design simulation models specifically for turbulence, combustion, plasma dynamics and the electrochemical properties of surfaces.

The Center is part of the Coordinated Science Laboratory, a multidisciplinary research laboratory in Illinois’ No. 5-ranked College of Engineering and home to the Parallel Computing Institute. The center is a joint initiative between the Lab and Illinois’ Computational Science & Engineering program, with CSE efforts led by Professor Jonathan Freund, who will orchestrate the simulations.

Source: Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

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