HPC helps red hot ideas at University of Glamorgan

Steve Willcox, Professor of Intelligent Systems Engineering

They are full of red hot ideas at the University of Glamorgan in Pontypridd – and the HPC Wales project will enable them to fire up even more innovations.

Steven Wilcox, the University's Professor of Intelligent Systems Engineering, is thrilled at the benefits HPC will bring.

"Quite simply, work which could take us up to a week currently could be done in less than an hour. The difference in computer power is that dramatic and it will open up a whole host of new horizons for us." he said.

The Department of Engineering (www.engineering.research.glam.ac.uk) at the Treforest Campus is currently studying industrial furnaces and boilers in collaboration with various EU industrial partners such as Tata Steel, EDF, EON and ENEL.

Professor Wilcox explained: "We produce computer and physical models to aid in the understanding of the behaviour of, for example, glass furnaces which produce molten bottle and plate glass. We can then use the models to study how to use fuel more efficiently and how to reduce emissions.

"Computational fluid dynamic modelling enables us to increase our understanding of the combustion process in the boiler or furnace chamber and what heat is released. Using the model we can investigate the conditions in the model to ensure that the industrial furnace produces the right quality and quantity of glass whilst using the fuel efficiently and reducing emissions."

Glass furnaces melt the glass at temperatures of about 1500°C for subsequent processing into glass sheets for buildings, glass containers and bottles.

The University of Glamorgan is working in conjunction with Global Combustion Systems, a British burner manufacturer, and GDF Suez S.A., a French gas supplier, to improve the efficiency of industrial furnaces and reduce their pollutant emissions.

The interior of a high temperature industrial furnace, one of the furnances being studied at the University of Glamorgan.

The works requires a large number of simulations of alternative designs and conditions so the work is greatly facilitated by the use of high performance computing systems.

Professor Wilcox added: "Glass producers tend to run their furnaces for periods of anything up to 15 years, so it is very difficult to get practical time tinkering with how furnaces are set up.

"Computer modelling comes into its own in cases like this. We can use long computational runs to develop algorithms which can then be put to a practical use.

"You need thousands of these runs to train an algorithm that can be of use on the actual glass furnace process".

"We are working closely with partners in the glass industry to develop our work and we are sure HPC will bring huge benefits in this field."

A high temperature glass melting furnance, one of the furnances being studied at the University of Glamorgan.

The University of Glamorgan is currently working with Tata Steel to develop a model which can potentially be used to simulate scheduling for one of their large furnaces heating steel bars to a temperature of about 1250°C.

This requires a model which can operate in at least "real-time" so high performance computer facilities are vital.

Professor Wilcox added: "Undoubtedly, we are excited by the opportunities opened up by the HPC project. It will be a hugely valuable tool in developing our collaborations with industry."