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Im and Colleagues Receive SciDAC Award

Assistant Professor Hong G. Im of the University of Michigan Mechanical Engineering department and two colleagues received one of the first awards under the new Scientific Discovery through Advanced Computing (SciDAC) program sponsored by the Department of Energy (DOE). The project, "Terascale High-Fidelity Simulations of Turbulent Combustion with Detailed Chemistry," received funding for three years, totaling $1.124 million, in the SciDAC's Chemical Sciences Program.

"What we're doing could be called a 'computational microscope'. "

--Hong Im

Joining Im as Principal Investigators in the project are Professor Arnaud Trouve of the University of Maryland and Professor Christopher J. Rutland of the University of Wisconsin. The awards were announced August 14, 2001.

In its proposal, the team noted that one of the goals of the project was "to use terascale technology to overcome many of the current direct numerical simulation (DNS) limitations. DNS is a mature and productive research tool in combustion science that is used to provide high-fidelity computer-based observations of the micro-physics found in turbulent reacting flows. DNS is also a unique tool for the development and validation of reduced model descriptions used in macro-scale simulations of engineering-level systems. Because of its high demand for computational power, current (gigascale) state-of-the-art DNS remains limited to small computational domains (i.e. small Reynolds numbers) and to simplified problems corresponding to adiabatic, non-sooting, gaseous flames in simple geometries.

"We plan to demonstrate the performance and capabilities of the new DNS code in a series of demonstration studies selected for both their technical challenge and scientific value," stated the team in its proposal. "This includes the simulation of compression-ignition of a gaseous or liquid, hydrocarbon fuel in a turbulent inhomogeneous mixture, and the simulation of NOx emissions from hydrocarbon-air turbulent jet diffusion flames."

As Im observed, "The parallel computing technology has now reached a teraflops speed computation power, which can calculate trillions of mathematical operations in a second by running thousands of processors simultaneously. Since a realistic simulation of turbulent reacting flows demands extremely large computer resources, these high-speed computers can be applied to achieve the goal.

"What we're doing could be called a 'computational microscope,'" said Im. "With the terascale computing resources we have, we are proposing to develop a high-fidelity simulation tool at utmost realism, such that some realistic-scale turbulent combustion processes can be reproduced in great detail. The simulation results will be valuable in understanding fundamentals of the physical and chemical processes, and they will also serve as a benchmark database for advanced turbulent combustion modeling development."

In this, the first year for the SciDAC awards program, the DOE received over 150 proposals, and 51 grants, totaling $57 million, were made. The program's goal is to advance fundamental research in several areas related to the DOE's missions, including climate modeling, fusion energy sciences, chemical sciences, nuclear astrophysics, high energy physics, and high performance computing. In all, the projects involved collaborations among 13 DOE laboratories and more than 50 colleges and universities.

In making the announcement of the awards, the DOE stated that "SciDAC is an integrated program that will help create a new generation of scientific simulation codes. The codes will take full advantage of the extraordinary computing capabilities of terascale computers to address ever larger, more complex problems. The program also includes research on improved mathematical and computing systems software that will allow these codes to use modern parallel computers effectively and efficiently.

In announcing the awards, Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham said, "This innovative program will help us to find new energy sources for the future, understand the effect of energy production on our environment, and learn more about the fundamental nature of energy and matter. A major strength of many of the projects is a partnership between scientists at the Energy Department's national laboratories and universities."

The DOE emphasized that the success of the SciDAC program requires multi-disciplinary teams from universities and laboratories to work in close partnership.

"These projects represent a significant change in the way we do computational research, with greater emphasis on integrated teams," said James Decker, acting director of the department's Office of Science. "Our strategy is to support coordinated efforts by the scientists working to solve complex problems in physics, chemistry and biology, and the applied mathematicians and computer scientists working to develop the computational tools required for that research."

Clearly, the collaboration between Im at the University of Michigan, Trouve of the University of Maryland and Rutland of the University of Wisconsin was significant in the team's receiving the award.

"This was a highly competitive process," said Im, "and we are glad that our teamwork and plan enabled us to succeed in receiving this award."

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