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Accelerating Innovation through High-Performance Computing
ORISE Fellow Avinash Vaidheeswaran in the Visualization lab at NETL in Morgantown, WV.

Director’s Corner

by Brian Anderson, Ph.D.

Computational simulation and modeling enable technology development to happen faster than ever before and with lower costs compared to traditional experimental methods alone. Through physics-based simulations, NETL researchers are finding solutions to complex energy challenges faster, cheaper and with fewer materials. 

At NETL, our talented team of men and women combine leading-edge capabilities with world-renowned expertise to pursue fossil energy innovation across a wide range of technologies, including fuel cell development, gasification and combustion reactors, carbon capture materials, and the extraction of rare earth elements. Advancements in these areas are leading to next-generation power systems that will supply our nation with affordable, reliable energy with minimal impact to the environment.   

Our Joule 2.0 supercomputer enables researchers to run high-fidelity modeling tools at various scales ranging from molecules to devices to entire power plants and natural gas and oil reservoirs. With these capabilities, researchers are discovering new materials, optimizing designs and predicting operational characteristics. 

The Lab’s artificial intelligence and machine learning system, WATT, harnesses the power of artificial intelligence and machine learning to address previously unanswerable problems and achieve fast, robust results. WATT uses cutting-edge algorithms, developed inhouse and with NETL research partners, to explore problems in machine learning, artificial intelligence, data mining and data analytics.  

NETL is also world-renowned for its multiphase flow science capabilities. Our open-source MFIX (Multiphase Flow with Interphase eXchanges) modeling tool enables researchers around the world to model systems containing different phases of matter, such as the coal ash and hot gas mixtures found in a coal-fired power plant. Computational models like those generated by MFIX can be used to simulate a multiphase process to help understand its performance before the design is finalized – saving time and money.  

With these tools and our team’s wide-ranging expertise, NETL is achieving noteworthy results. For example: 

  • NETL researchers used an advanced computational methodology to predict properties for more than 1 million membranes and identify promising materials for gas separations applications, such as carbon capture. 
  • NETL researchers modeled fluidized bed reformers in the Integrated Waste Treatment Unite at the Idaho Cleanup Project for treatment and disposal of radioactive waste. Simulations enabled team members to understand the chemical and hydrodynamic behavior inside the vessels, potentially saving tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars. 
  • Computational visualization of gold-copper nanocluster structures and simulations of catalytic reactions underpinned development of improved catalyst structures that pave the way for less expensive catalysts that can covert CO2 into useful products. 

These are just a few examples of NETL innovation in computational science and engineering. Check out our newsroom throughout October to read more about how we’re using high-performance computing to accelerate design and deployment of advanced energy systems and find solutions to the nation’s energy challenges.