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Saving lives, alleviating climate impact, and improving product safety – the importance of computational fluid dynamics

Sounds impressive doesn’t it? Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) is the analysis of systems involving fluid flow, heat transfer and associated phenomena such as chemical reactions, by means of computer-based simulation. We’ve been working with a number of customers to supercharge their CFD modelling so here’s the first of three blogs looking at the benefits and challenges of CFD and how to optimise your modelling with the right infrastructure.

It’s such a specialist discipline, it would be easy to underestimate CFD’s contribution to the UK economy so I was interested to learn that the UK’s aviation sector alone turns over more than £60 billion a year, directly contributes £22 billion annually to the country’s economy and supports almost a million jobs, making it one of the most important pillars of the UK economy. UK aerospace manufacturers are investing £1.7 billion per annum in research and development, pushing the boundaries in anything from computational fluid dynamics to advanced manufacturing.

CFD simulations are used to improve, enhance, evolve, and develop new and better designs, processes, techniques, across a wide range of disciplines, from medicine to energy to manufacturing.

Saving lives

Whether it’s underpinning developments in medical science or being used to understand and better predict the effects of natural phenomena, CFD is at the core of live-saving research.

In bio-medical engineering CFD is used to study the circulatory and respiratory systems. Modelling enables more personalised treatment planning and has the potential to reduce the cost, time and risk associated with clinical trials.

In fire engineering, CFD enables a detailed prediction of the consequences in a certain space during a fire situation. In the building industry where optimal use of space and finance are primary concerns, safety factors can be assessed using modelling.

Managing climate impact

Mitigating climate change, both in terms of reducing reliance on fossil fuels and manufacturing or product emissions, is high on every agenda.

CFD is well established in the field of renewable energy applications, including wind, wave and tidal projects. As the need to consider wind farm sites away from open spaces increases, CFD can provide a detailed understanding of the effect of complex site surroundings on the wind regime, leading to more accurate energy yield predictions and reduced uncertainty.

The automotive industry provides a good example where CFD can be used to reduce environmental impact by modelling factors such as fuel efficiency or decreasing pollutants from exhaust gases.

Product safety

CFD plays an important role in the design and development of a wide range of products, ensuring safety standards are met. In the food industry, CFD can help in optimisation of processing conditions and system structure of High Pressure Processing used in food preservation.

The challenges faced

OCF specialise in high performance computing, so CFD is a natural fit for us and it’s usage is increasing. The CFD Market is predicted to grow at 13.6% CAGR to 2019. It is attractive to industry and academia since it is more cost-effective than physical testing but the common question clients come to us with is ‘how can I reduce the time it takes to run simulations?’ According to the 2015 computational fluid dynamics market report, companies across various industries require speed, agility, and control in design cycles. Simulation and testing are the two important functions in the design cycle, which enable users to achieve faster time-to-market and profitability.

As with all CFD applications, reliability and performance are key. Calculating the millions of data points involved in simulating reality at high resolutions consumes vast amounts of computation time. It is not uncommon for simulations to take days or even longer to run. In a world where achieving a faster time to market is key and can be business-critical, or even life-critical, this is a huge bottleneck in the process to which OCF have the answer in the form of OpenFOAM® on POWER8.

Look out for the next blog where we’ll explore further the challenges with CFD simulations and how they can be alleviated with the right system supporting your CFD modelling software.

Check out how OpenFOAM® on IBM Power Systems can supercharge your CFD in our infographic.




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