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DOE seeks new proposals for energy technologies

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Hydrocarbon Engineering,

A new US Department of Energy (DOE) programme designed to spur the use of high performance supercomputers to advance US manufacturing is now seeking a second round of proposals from industry to compete for approximately US$3 million in new funding.

The High Performance Computing for Manufacturing (HPC4Mfg) programme currently supports 15 projects partnering companies with DOE’s national labs to use the labs’ high performance computing (HPC) systems to upgrade their manufacturing processes and bring new clean energy technologies to market.

The 15 projects underway, ranging from improved turbine blades for aircraft engines and reduced heat loss in electronics to improved fibreglass production, have each been awarded up to US$300 000 for a total of nearly US$4.5 million.

The partnerships use world class supercomputers and scientific expertise from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), which leads the programme, and partner laboratories Lawrence Berkeley and Oak Ridge national laboratories (LBNL and ORNL), which in turn team up with US manufacturers.

"We are thrilled with the response from the US manufacturing industry,” said LLNL Mathematician, Peg Folta, Director of the HPC4Mfg Programme. “This programme lowers the barrier of entry for US manufacturers to adopt HPC. It makes it easier for a company to use supercomputers by not only funding access to the HPC systems, but also for experts in the use of these systems to solve complex problems.”

Concept proposals from US manufacturers can be submitted to the HPC4Mfg programme. It is expected that another 8 - 10 projects worth approximately US$3 million will be funded, with the applications due by 21 April 2016. A number of companies and their initial concepts will be selected and paired with a national lab HPC expert to jointly develop a full proposal in June, with final selections to be announced in August.

The HPC4Mfg programme was created last year by the Advanced Manufacturing Office (AMO) within DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE).

“Access to supercomputers in the Department of Energy’s labs will provide a resource to American firms inventing and building clean energy technologies right here at home that no international competitor can match,” said Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, David Danielson. “The HPC4Mfg initiative pairs leading clean energy technology companies with the world class computing tools and expertise at our national labs to drive down the cost of materials and streamline manufacturing processes. The ultimate goal of their collaboration is to increase our global competitiveness in the race to develop clean energy technology and jobs. While some larger manufacturing companies use advanced computing in developing their industrial processes, it is a challenge to stay on the leading edge of HPC technology in this rapidly advancing field, and few small to medium sized companies have had experience in its use,” Folta said.

“It is noteworthy,” Folta added, “that DOE labs possess five of the top 12 HPC systems worldwide and also boost broad expertise in the applications of HPC systems.”

By using HPC in the design of products and industrial processes, US manufacturers can reap a number of benefits, such as accelerating innovation, lowering energy costs, shortening testing cycles, reducing waste and rejected parts and cutting the time to market.

Scientists at the national labs benefit by expanding computer codes and applying them to different problem areas. The skills and new applications they develop through these public private partnerships can then be applied to DOE missions in such areas as energy, materials science and national security.

Although the programme is presently focused on using national lab HPC resources to bolster manufacturing, it is possible that other fields, such as transportation, more efficient buildings and renewable energy also could benefit. As the programme broadens, other national laboratory partners are expected to join.

Adapted from press release by Francesca Brindle

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