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High performance computing for energies with EoCoE

​Predicting wind and sunlight intensity or stabilizing plasma in a nuclear fusion reactor are some of the multiple challenges to tackle in order to diversify our energy mix. They rely heavily on high performance computing (HPC). Situated at the crossroads of HPC and energy transition, the European Energy-Oriented Center of Excellence, or EoCoE, intends to provide high-end expertise in applied mathematics and HPC.

Published on 27 November 2017
Computer simulation being an amazing driver of innovation, it is strategic for Europe to develop supercomputing resources at the most advanced level. The UE provides support to supercomputing infrastructures (PRACE1), hardware (ETP4HPC2) as well as software technologies. The support to application software development is spread over nine thematic centers of excellence—EoCoE being one of them. 

Energies need energetic capacities of calculation

Predicting wind and sunlight intensity, designing innovative materials to store electricity, optimizing the management of water reservoirs, predicting the performance of geothermal plants or even stabilizing plasma in a nuclear fusion reactor are essential tasks to master in order to accomplish a successful diversification of the energy mix.

Dedicated to low-carbon energies, EoCoE, which stands for ‘European Energy-Oriented Center of Excellence’ (and can be pronounced as “Echo”), targets the fields of weather forecast, materials, water management and nuclear fusion—all of which require high calculation capacities. The center brings together twenty-two partners from eight European countries, involved in both HPC and energies, committed to tackling the challenges in these fields.
“Computer simulation is driven by the constant upgrades of high-performance computers,” said Edouard Audit, the CEA Director of Maison de la simulation3 and coordinator of EoCoE. “Yet the challenge is not so much to gain time than to achieve things that were previously inaccessible. In materials science, for instance, it is now possible to digitally test a very large number of materials.”

Exascaling the future

 1 PRACE (Partnership for Advanced Computing in Europe) seeks to enhance European competitiveness for the by offering world class computing and data management resources and services.
 2 ETP4HPC (European technology Platform for High Performance Computing) is an industry-led think tank comprising of European HPC technology stakeholders: technology vendors, research centres and end users.
 3 The Maison de la simulation is a common research laboratory (CEA - CNRS - INRIA - UVSQ - UPSud) about numerical simulation. It is the CEA entity coordinating the EoCoE project.
 4 The Institute for Magnetic Fusion Research (IRFM) is one of Institutes of the Fundamental Research Division in the CEA. For almost 60 years, its responsibility has been to carry out research on thermonuclear magnetically-confined fusion at the CEA.
The mission of a laboratory such as Maison de la simulation is to develop cutting-edge digital tools in close collaboration with scientists from the related disciplines, as well as transversal tools such as linear algebra, input/output data management, and result visualization. “We provide support to researchers as they develop their own code to help them achieve the expected result. The help we offer ranges from applied mathematics to algorithms and HPC” Mr. Audit explained. “Meanwhile, we are also preparing for the future, that is to say the development of exascale architectures (1018 operations per second), that are massively multi-core. They differ from previous architectures by the fact that now, not all their processors are of the same nature. This is why we must change the way we compute—and how we manage memory storage in particular.” 

First concrete achievements

Several significant advances have already been achieved thanks to EoCoE. During the working sessions, the scientists learn to “instrument” their simulation code to monitor the results step by step, and optimize them.

For nuclear fusion, the Gysela code developed at CEA (IRFM4) describes ion transport in plasma inside the reactor's toric chamber (tokamak). In addition to being necessary for the R&D activities of tokamaks WEST (CEA) and ITER in Cadarache, this code also deepens the fundamental understanding that physicists have of fusion plasma turbulence. It is now suitable for hundreds of thousands of computing cores. The meticulous audit work accomplished within EoCoE has saved 10 % in computing time and has helped prepare for the future upgrade to the exascale. 

Another example among many others is Metalwalls, the molecular dynamics code at the highest level internationally. Metalwalls allows for the development of batteries, solar cells and supercapacitors—a technology halfway between batteries and capacitors. Ultimately, thanks to supercapacitors, electric vehicles will be able to benefit from a high energy density in a very short time. With EoCoE, the efficiency of Metalwalls was multiplied by 2.5 and the computing time divided by 100. Ultimately, it will be “supported” on a computational architecture—still futuristic for now—using Field-Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs).

“EoCoE has allowed us to strengthen our current collaborations while developing new partnerships. It has brought new activities while widely increasing our visibility throughout Europe,” Mr Audit said.

Last but not least, EoCoE also organizes trainings and is particularly active on the international scene. It recently organized a networking meeting on the theme 'HPC for Renewable Energy' during the international conference of SuperComputing in Denver (USA) and will very soon, on November 29th and 30th of November 2017, held is bi-annual face to face meeting in Toulouse (France).

About EoCoE

Bringing together 22 partners from 8 European countries and led by the CEA, in close collaboration with Jülich German research center, EoCoE will support the energy transition through targeted support to four key sectors - meteorology, materials, water and fusion - each using intensive numerical modeling. The project benefits from a 5.5M € grant from the EU.

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