Computation for Energy Efficiency

Like the assembly line brought efficiency to the manufacturing industry, the relatively recent use of Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) is bringing efficiency to all industry in general.

CFD has intrigued me ever since I took a graduate level class in molecular dynamics from the Chemistry Department at UMaine.  This afternoon I took the kids to the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder to see the exhibits.  On display is “Bluelightning” an over 4000 CPU cluster that is compared to a cray they have dissected.  There is a large touch screen computer there with a gui to browse several demonstrations of simulations done on Bluelightning.  My 5-year-old took to it immediately providing me the chance to be an authority on the subject, comparing a simulation of hurricane Katrina to the milk poured into his mother’s tea.  It’s amazing how drastic of a scale one field can  provide insight into.  Specifically relevant here is it’s application to maximizing energy efficiency for the system we call the United States of America.   Here is a document from the  United States National Committee on Theoretical and Applied Mechanics designed to provide a vision of the current challenges in the area of fluid mechanics that appeals to a broad audience applicable for both policy decisions and public awareness:

Research in Fluid Mechanics: Meeting National Needs

Of particular interest to me is the use of flow control in turbulent flows to maximize the efficiency of say the combustion of vegetable oil in a diesel engine.

Only since the mid 90’s has this field been used in the industry.  The project that started it all was between Sandia National Labs (the US nuclear weapons manufacturing pipeline) and Goodyear (the US tire manufacturer).  Goodyear’s goal to cut costs in development lead to a partnership with the DOE resulting in a line of tires that lasted longer than any others for a price less than many. (See “Treading New Ground” in Computational Science and Engineering Sept/Oct2002). Sandia continues to seek similar partnerships.

Besides being a tool to find systems that work most efficiently, the report on “Meeting National Needs” points out that CFD can be used to solve problems of energy efficiency directly.  But for now I ask for comments regarding how this use of CFD is use or plans to be be used to make more efficient products in general.

One Response to Computation for Energy Efficiency

  1. om6xx says:

    Here is an follow-up article from Sandia that sheds some light on Computational Science and Engineering:

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