Supercomputers assist on wave energy project

Engineering researchers have recently worked on a solution to bring wave energy one step closer to mainstream.

Credit: Mattiazzo Group, Politecnico di Turin /SDSC

The work involved a team from San Diego State University and Northwestern University in collaboration with Polytechnic University of Turin.

They used the Comet supercomputer at the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC) and Bridges at the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center (PSC) to validate their outcomes.

The research encompassed simulations such as heavy rigid structures interacting with high winds, breaking waves, and other complex marine characteristics.

“We primarily used our simulation techniques to investigate inertial sea wave energy converters, which are renewable energy devices developed by our collaborators at the Polytechnic University of Turin that convert wave energy from large bodies of water into electrical energy,” explained study co-author Amneet Pal Bhalla, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at San Diego State University.

“There is a need for these devices to perform effectively year-round using optimal control strategies, and our simulations could be an initial step in making this happen.”

Supercomputers used to simulate inertial sea wave energy converter devices

The simulations allowed the scientists to show how their models could let engineers inexpensively investigate their design space before building full-scale prototypes.

Researcher also found some large-scale modeling challenges while conducting their study.

For example, while their work required hundreds of processors and multiple days of time to run, computational time on Comet and Bridges enabled them to demonstrate the parallel scalability of their simulation technique as well as validate various 3D, large-scale test cases.

The researchers also used the College of Engineering’s Fermi high-performance computing service at San Diego State University.

“The supercomputers helped us demonstrate that our technique is robust and can be used for complex engineering problems,” said Bhalla.

“We are extremely grateful for being able to push the boundaries of various simulation techniques to expand our research on better engineering converters for this untapped resource of wave energy.”

The research received support from the National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship Program and also the NSF’s SI2 program.

The team’s findings related to their wave energy simulation tool are in the Journal of Computational Physics.