New center to leverage high-performance computing to advance hypersonic propulsion

10/1/2020 Debra Levey Larson

Written by Debra Levey Larson

Center for Exascale-enabled Scramjet Design
Center for Exascale-enabled Scramjet Design
The U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration Advanced Simulation and Computing announced it will fund a new Center for Exascale-enabled Scramjet Design at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

U of I will receive $17 million over a five-year period.

Jonathan B. Freund
Jonathan B. Freund
Willett Professor and Head of the Department of Aerospace Engineering Jonathan Freund is the application co-director and principal investigator of CEESD. He said air-breathing hypersonic propulsion is the key to expanding access to space, enhancing defense, and accelerating global transport.

“The needed supersonic combustion ram jets (scramjets) have been demonstrated but are insufficiently engineered for many applications,” Freund said. “Their promise is revolutionary but their challenge is profound—to maintain combustion, with its modest flame speeds, in supersonic air flow.

“Advanced lightweight composite materials provide a new design paradigm that can facilitate thermal management through temperature resistance and/or strategic ablation,” Freund said. “Predictive simulations, realized by the integration of multiple physical models and performance-enabled with advanced computer science methods, will constitute a fundamental advance that circumvents testing costs that currently hinder design.”

Freund said the center is a boon for hypersonics efforts at Illinois and for bringing high-performance computing together with engineering analysis and design.

CEESD will be housed in the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at U of I with NCSA’s Director William Gropp serving as the computer science lead and co-director of CEESD. Gropp described the uniqueness of this center due to its university setting.

“High-performance computing is enabling for our design goals, and the center will, at the same time, provide a unique educational experience,” Gropp said. “The computer science students will be trained to work effectively with computational scientists, who are facing challenging prediction goals. Likewise, computational scientists will learn computer science approaches and opportunities within the team structure.”

The experimental work for the center will be orchestrated by AE’s Greg Elliott. Freund said, Elliott leverages experience in high-speed flow experiments, diagnostics, and their integration with predictive modeling.

In all, 20 researchers are associated with the center across NCSA and six departments in The Grainger College of Engineering: Computer Science, Aerospace Engineering, Mechanical Science and Engineering, Industrial and Enterprise Systems Engineering, and Electrical and Computer Engineering.

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This story was published October 1, 2020.