German love for the engineering industries is renowned, so it isn’t surprising that one of the biggest HPC systems in Europe is used to make innovations through technology a reality. The automotive sector, like many other research-centric industries, faces major challenges when it comes to taking new ideas and having them impact real-world products. The process of experimentation and trial needed to make new ideas a reality is long and expensive, both issues that supercomputing solutions are helping to address. For a clear example of this trend, look no further than the High Performance Computing Center Stuttgart (HLRS) of the University of Stuttgart. HLRS is among the leading supercomputing centers in Europe and has strong links to the automotive industry as a whole. The HLRS supercomputer, nicknamed “Hermit” has been used for many projects in the few years since its inception, with many of these efforts contributing to solving major national, European, and Global problems.
HLRS and Hermit – bringing innovation into the spotlight
Since being put into production in February 2012, the Hermit supercomputer, which is a Cray solution, has been used to support a range of research efforts relating to global challenges such as health, energy, environment and mobility. Hermit has lived up to its purpose. In just one year of running, approximately 40 projects took advantage of Hermit’s petascale computing power providing scientists and researchers with the tools to tackle the big questions of our time.
The Cray XE6 system with its 113,664 processing cores has been fully operational and running stably from day one, delivering an average planned system uptime of 99 percent. The HPC solution has contributed to efforts in a wide range of industries, including the automotive and manufacturing sectors. The leading-edge technology at HLRS makes the laboratory one of the most powerful in Europe, and approximately 60 percent of initiatives at the center are dedicated to engineering.
Additionally, HLRS is part of the German Gauss Centre for Supercomputing (GCS) which contributes to European HPC efforts through the Partnership for Advanced Computing in Europe (PRACE). This means that computing time on Hermit, one of PRACE’s top supercomputing resources, is also allocated to specifically support European large-scale scientific and engineering research projects.
Supercomputing and the automotive sector
Performing experiments to identify more efficient ways to make engines work, improve aerodynamics or otherwise enable innovation in the automotive sector has become an incredibly expensive and time-consuming project. In many cases, several models and concept cars must be built and physically evaluated over the course of months, and often years, to get the job done. Supercomputers can be used to precisely track how automobiles function in specific areas, create virtual models of operations in specific parts of the vehicle, apply experimental configuration to those models and simulate how those changes impact performance.
The end result of this virtual experimentation is a situation in which research initiatives can be accelerated and become much less expensive. As a result, innovation becomes reality much more quickly. This is evident in a few projects performed at the HLRS.
Two projects that are emblematic of the work being done at HLRS involve making different types of engines more efficient. One of these initiatives analyzes the flow field in contemporary internal combustion engines to increase their efficiency and reduce pollutant emissions. The liquid dynamics research could make it easier to optimize combustion models in engines and improve fuel efficiency. Another project performs a similar function, but in electric engines. By using Hermit to simulate the electro-thermal layout of lithium-ion batteries, researchers are exploring ways to improve driving range energy consumption and durability in electric-vehicle engines.
Looking into the future
The research efforts being performed at HLRS are paving the way to what could be a more efficient and sustainable automotive industry. Researchers and scientists at HLRS could also impact manufacturing, engineering and physics by supporting key national and European initiatives. These efforts could have a major impact on the world, especially as the HLRS supercomputing infrastructure continues to expand.
Nurcan Rasig, Senior Account Manager, Germany