Visualization of streamlines in a lean direct injection aviation gas turbine combustor

OLCF’s Frontier Exascale Computer Modeling May Bring Carbon-Neutral Aviation Closer to Reality

Four years after his Ph.D., turbulence and combustion modeler Bruce Perry has drawn a plum assignment. He and colleagues are loading software called Pele – named for the Hawaiian fire diety – into the world’s speediest supercomputer to evaluate whether new, green jet fuels could reduce global warming.

Perry and colleagues are working on Frontier, the Department of Energy Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility’s new exascale machine and rated the world’s most powerful computer.

They need to work there because “the simulations we do are very, very computationally expensive,” says Perry, a researcher in high-performance algorithms and complex fluids at the National Reliable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, Colorado.

Allocated 320,000 node hours that they started expending last July, “we have had excellent experiences working on Frontier,” he reports. “We were able to iron out issues and demonstrate good performance while using almost the entire machine.

“With the simulations in this project we hope to demonstrate that the Pele suite can be effectively used to predict the impact of sustainable aviation fuels properties on combustor performance.”

Pele enables researchers to simulate combustion in a variety of fuels in unprecedented detail and is a collaboration of five DOE national laboratories, the University of Connecticut and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Pele is a product of the Department of Energy’s Exascale Computing Project (ECP). The ECP just ended a seven-year run building tools that comprise the ecosystem for exascale computing at a billion billion operations a second.

Sustainable aviation fuels, or SAFs, are cited by NREL as capable of achieving “a minimum of 50 percent reduction in life cycle greenhouse gas emissions compared to conventional fuels”.

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