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Computational Science & Engineering is generating information and understanding beyond the reach of experiments alone
Validating Computational Modeling’s Good Ideas with External Partnerships

Director’s Corner

by Brian Anderson, PhD.

Good ideas may not want to be free, but they do want to connect, fuse, and recombine. They want to reinvent themselves by crossing conceptual borders. They want to complete each other as much as they want to compete. – Steven Johnson, American popular science author and media theorist.

At NETL, finding good ideas that help deliver cleaner and more efficient ways to use America’s fossil fuel resources are opening new avenues of possibility through scientific innovations and productive collaborations with universities, national laboratories and the private sector.

Throughout April, we are featuring NETL’s work in computational science and engineering. This research area includes the work we’re tackling with partners to validate the sophisticated computer modeling and designing that NETL experts use to spark good ideas for new fossil fuel innovations; that’s letting good ideas “connect, fuse, recombine” — much like Johnson described.

Fossil energy research is anything but simple and to harvest research data that the nation needs to bolster our energy future and national security, complex new tools are often brought to bear. This month on this site, you read recent examples of how NETL leadership and ingenuity, supported by partners at universities and sister national laboratories, and clever new modeling tools are positively affecting our mission to innovate cost-effective, sustainable and efficient energy. For example:

  • We are working with the University of Pittsburgh and using powerful computational tools to identify the best materials for creating polymer-based membranes that separate carbon dioxide from post-combustion flue gas. The results will help coal-fired power plants meet federal emissions requirements and accurately estimate costs.
  • We are working with Oak Ridge National Laboratory and their capabilities in neutron imaging techniques to validate computer-simulated models that help researchers design more efficient ways to convert organic or fossil fuel-based materials into syngas.
  • We are working with West Virginia University to advance a gasification process that can more efficiently convert fossil fuels like coal into a highly useful mixture of hydrogen and carbon monoxide called synthesis gas or syngas. WVU built a bench-scale fluidized bed gasifier that is validating the computer modeling NETL performed to design, analyze and optimize new novel gasifiers and associated devices.

At NETL, our pursuit, validation and innovation of good ideas has a solid record of accomplishment. With the help of new research technology and effective partnerships, we have an even brighter future for helping ideas “cross conceptual borders” for energy progress.