Simulating and Controlling Fluid Flow at AME and RCC

Casey McLaughlin
February, 2014

The Florida State University Aeropropulsion Mechatronics & Energy Center (AME) is already well-known for big wind tunnels, robots, and other big research projects. AME also engages in big computing to expand the research horizon with computation fluid dynamics (CFD).

Kunihiko “Sam” Taira is an Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the AME Center. He and his team of students in the Computational Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (CFD) are studying fluid flow around various objects. “You may have heard about aerodynamics around airplanes and cars,” states Sam. “Studying the flow of air over bodies such as these is what we essentially do. We also try to modify the behavior of the flow in a beneficial way with what’s called active flow control.” Some aspects of fluid flows that interest researchers at the CFD Lab include vortices, turbulence, and acoustics.

Applications of this research affect efficiency of everything from military aircraft to personal vehicles. In fact, anything that has fluid surrounding it can benefit from the research at the CFD Lab. Examples include improved maneuverability of military aircraft and an increased travel range of personal vehicles. Sam emphasizes that, “Aerodynamic improvement we make in our lab will enhance the performance of the vehicles we study in terms of performance and fuel efficiency.”

The business of simulating fluid flows is costly. Typical workloads run on hundreds to thousands of CPU cores for weeks or months at a time. To accomplish this, the CFD Lab makes use of both the Department of Defense Supercomputing facilities (DoD HPCMP) and the Florida State RCC High Performance Computing (HPC) Cluster. Before submitting jobs to the large DoD facilities, Sam’s team first runs them on the RCC’s HPC, which is more accessible and provides more immediate support.

“The fact that HPC is centralized at FSU is essential to getting computational research running flawlessly. We can’t ask for better support.”