Exascale’s New Software Frontier: Combustion-PELE – High-Performance Computing News Analysis

“Exascale’s New Frontier,” a project from the Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility, explores the new applications and software technology for driving scientific discoveries in the exascale era.

The scientific challenge

Diesel and gas-turbine engines drive the world’s trains, planes, and ships, but the fossil fuels that power these engines produce much of the carbon emissions that fuel the greenhouse effect and global climate change. Scientists have spent the past half-century in search of cleaner-burning fuels but have been hindered by the complexities of the high-pressure, turbulent reacting environment inside practical combustion chambers. Electrification trends ongoing across the automotive industry have yet to reach harder-to-electrify energy sectors such as off-grid power generation, marine shipping, agriculture, mining, and airplanes. A key decarbonization strategy calls for replacing the petroleum-based fuels for these types of engines with fuels from sustainable sources, while strictly maintaining requirements on reliability, safety, and cost.

Why exascale?

The Combustion-Pele project, named for the ancient Hawaiian goddess of fire, offers a means to overcome the obstacles to cleaner-burning fuels for these sectors. Over the past seven years, the Pele project team has developed simulation tools that harness the computational power of exascale to digitally recreate these complex combustion environments in unprecedented detail. The project began with a focus on finding ways to improve the internal combustion engines that power cars and trucks but pivoted to include aviation systems.

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