Engineering research at NCI is focused in the areas of aerodynamics and fluid flow. Based largely on numerical simulations running at large scales on NCI’s supercomputer, researchers are investigating both fundamental and applied aspects of fluid flow and how they relate to vehicles, engines, energy production and more.
Direct Numerical Simulation (DNS) and Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) are both computational methods for representing a real-world situation numerically. They allow researchers to look in exquisite detail at turbulent fluid flows and other forms of fluid motion. The equations that govern fluid motion were described in the 19th century, but solving them for situations such as in swirling ocean eddies or inside of blood vessels is extremely complex.
Getting to grips with the behaviour of fast-moving fluids opens up new possibilities for designing planes, cars and boats, as well as improving weather models and more efficient engines. Researchers in energy research are even investigating the processes taking place inside a nuclear fusion reactor as it heats up. Mathematics describes the behaviour of interacting fluids, but it is not sufficient for describing them fully. For that, huge computational power is needed.
As an applied field of science, the engineering use-cases of highly parallel supercomputing are very specific. Fundamental research into fluid dynamics and the complex interactions that take place at the tiniest scales rely heavily on that kind of computing power. Building our understanding of those fundamentals gives us a good basis from which to develop future planes, trains and ships, as well as the deeper investigations into combustion, nuclear fusion or even blood flow.