Mechanical and Industrial Engineering (MIE) Professor Stephen de Bruyn Kops and a team of multidisciplinary researchers from four international institutions were recently granted special supercomputer access by the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DoE) Office of Science through its Innovative and Novel Computational Impact on Theory and Experiment (INCITE) program. de Bruyn Kops is the principal investigator on a project studying fluids and turbulence, which will be greatly enhanced by access to powerful supercomputers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, including the fastest in the nation.
As de Bruyn Kops explains, “This award gives us access to Summit, which is the fastest computer in the U.S. and the second largest in the world.”
According to the News Office, de Bruyn Kops is leading a team of scientists from the University of Washington, University of Cambridge, and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. His team is studying a phenomenon known as stably stratified turbulence (SST), and the resulting understanding of SST is a key for applications ranging from climate modeling, to pollution mitigation, to deep sea mining, to military operations over cold land or ice.
The News Office article explains that SST is a model for understanding fluid flows that are highly intermittent and anisotropic at large scales. SST is also valuable for enhancing such fundamental scientific issues as turbulence theory on turbulent/non-turbulent interfaces, internal intermittency, and anisotropic multi-scale energetics.
With this project, de Bruyn Kops and his team will advance understanding and modeling of stratified turbulence and the dynamic range required to understand this region of parameter space. The INCITE award and its supercomputer access promises to further the team’s work by providing a greater understanding of fluid-flow regime that is not currently accessible for research by any other methods.
de Bruyn Kops heads MIE’s Fluid Dynamics Lab. As he says about his lab’s research and how it will be boosted by the access to supercomputers at Oak Ridge, “Turbulence is nature's spoon. Without the mixing it provides, we could get no fresh air to breath and just about everything in the modern world would overheat or freeze. Yet hydrodynamic drag is the curse of turbulence, not to mention violent weather. Huge computers are increasingly the workhorses for understanding and predicting turbulence. Here at UMass we run some of the largest simulations in the world to understand some of the most basic features of turbulence.”
The INCITE awards will greatly increase the number, effectiveness, and quality of these large simulations. As de Bruyn Kops says, “Our simulations [on the Oak Ridge computers] will use 3.5-trillion grid points and will be the largest simulations of SST and one of the largest simulations of any type.”
de Bruyn Kops also believes that Summit is the only publicly accessible computer that can run these titanic simulations, which will be administrated with a specialized “GPGPU-accelerated code” developed exclusively by his laboratory. GPGPU stands for “General-purpose Computing on Graphics Processing Units” and is a methodology for high-performance computing that uses graphics processing units to crunch data.
In general, INCITE awards, which the DoE says “pursue transformational advances in science and engineering,” account for 60 percent of the available time on the leadership-class supercomputers at the department’s Argonne National Laboratory and Oak Ridge National Laboratory. (December 2020)