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The DOE Science News Source is a Newswise initiative to promote research news from the Office of Science of the DOE to the public and news media.
  • 2010-04-27 08:45:12
  • Article ID: 563900

Defense-Scale Supercomputing Comes to Alternative Energy Research

  • Credit: Randys Montoya

    Officials from Sandia, DOE's National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Sun/Oracle, Intel and DOE/NNSA Sandia Site Office during Red Mesa dedication.

Albuquerque, N.M. — A new supercomputer that more quickly models the most efficient ways to harness energy from the sun, wind and other renewable resources is now operating at Sandia National Laboratories. Red Mesa, a 180-teraflop computing platform, <NWSLUG />

is a collaboration between Sandia and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). The two labs dedicated the supercomputer earlier this month, along with representatives from Sun/Oracle and Intel corporations and the Department of Energy’s Sandia Site Office. The work for the first time brings defense-scale computing to bear on alternative energy projects that otherwise could take months or even years to complete if researchers had to rely on more limited computing resources or on physical testing. Joe Polito, Sandia vice president of Enterprise Transformation, called Red Mesa “a state-of-the-art computing platform to address pressing energy problems for the country, using the most energy-efficient supercomputer in the country.” Megan McCluer, DOE program manager for wind and hydropower technologies, said, “The Red Mesa platform will provide the speed and scale needed to perform large-scale computations targeted toward the continued improvements of clean energy technologies.” Red Mesa, when combined with its architecturally similar Sandia parent Red Sky, reaches a total speed of 500 teraflops, making it the 10th fastest computer in the world. Already, Red Mesa has enabled NREL researchers to solve a corn-stalk-to-energy problem in just six weeks. The problem formerly would have taken six months. “We need supercomputing to help us transform forestry and agricultural by-products into fuels and energy more rapidly and economically,” said Steve Hammond, director of NREL’s Computational Science Center. “And we need to learn how to minimize waste products like tar in the biomass gasification process. They’re expensive to clean up and we shouldn’t be creating them in the first place.” In addition to its “green” targets, Red Mesa’s operational innovations make it a kind of “green” machine, Sandia manager John Zepper said. Innovating on the newest technology, the team dramatically improved Red Mesa’s efficiency compared with other supercomputers. A first-of-its-kind innovation is the Glacier Door — a door capping each cabinet that keeps cooling mechanisms within a few inches of the heat source. With the improved system, air exiting the array of supercomputer cabinets is actually slightly cooler than when it came in. Other improvements included a better electrical power distribution system that allowed for easier installation and removal of electrical wiring. The Red Mesa machine is configured with an all-optical connector-based Infiniband network. “Our changes, both in software and hardware, will save millions of dollars over the life of this machine,” said Zepper. These changes only came about, noted Rob Leland, director of Sandia’s Computations, Computers and Math center, because “vendors were willing to take technical and economic risks that permitted us to deploy a dozen significant innovations. This combination of off-the-shelf technology and accompanying innovations represented quite a big risk and vendors were willing to go on this journey with us because they saw strategic value to their business. This innovative approach delivers great value to the taxpayer.” Oracle, prime contractor to Red Mesa, is introducing the same innovations in smaller Oracle machines. Margie Tatro, director of Sandia’s Energy Systems Center, said, “I want to thank DOE, as well as the urgency and relevancy of our partners in the private sector, for helping Sandia and NREL overcome obstacles and make this happen.” NREL is the U.S. Department of Energy’s primary national laboratory for renewable energy and energy efficiency research and development. NREL is operated for DOE by The Alliance for Sustainable Energy, LLC. Sandia National Laboratories is a multi-program laboratory operated by Sandia Corporation, a wholly owned subsidiary of Lockheed Martin Corporation, for the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration. With main facilities in Albuquerque, N.M., and Livermore, Calif., Sandia has major R&D responsibilities in national security, energy and environmental technologies, and economic competitiveness. Sandia news media contact: Neal Singer, nsinger@sandia.gov (505) 845-7078

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Cold and Bubbly: The Sensory Qualities that Best Quench Thirst

New research from the Monell Center finds that oral perceptions of coldness and carbonation help to reduce thirst. The findings could guide sensory approaches to increase fluid intake in populations at risk for dehydration, including the elderly, soldiers, and athletes.

J.R. Macdonald Lab receives nearly $8 million DOE grant renewal

MANHATTAN -- A nearly $8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy is supporting the "bread and butter" physics research at Kansas State University's James R. Macdonald Laboratory. The grant is a three-year renewal award, "Structure and Dynamics of Atoms, Ions, Molecules and Surfaces." "This big operational grant is our bread-and-butter," said Itzik Ben-Itzhak, university distinguished professor of physics and director of the J.

University contributes art to the new downtown arena

A number of Sac State artworks are joining Jeff Koons' "Coloring Book" in exhibits at the new Golden 1 Center. (Sacramento State/Rob Neep) More photosSac State Professor Rachel Clarke and alumnus Bryan Valenzuela check out the installation of Valenzuela's "Multitudes Converge" glass sculpture at the Golden 1 Center.

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New Method for Reporting Solar Data

A straightforward new way to calculate, compile, and graphically present solar radiation measurements in a format that is accessible to decision makers and the general public has been developed by researchers at the University of Texas at Austin and is described in the Journal of Renewable and Sustainable Energy.

Trapped Sunlight Cleans Water

High energy costs are one drawback of making clean water from waste effluents. According to an article in the journal Biomicrofluidics, a new system that combines two different technologies proposes to break down contaminants using the cheapest possible energy source, sunlight.

Report: Policies to Spur Renewable Energy Can Lower Energy Costs

The South could pay less for its electricity in 20 years than is currently projected if strong public policies are enacted to spur renewable energy production and use, according to a report released today by researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology and Duke University.


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Citi Grant Helps University Students Succeed

Citi Community Development, part of the Citi family of businesses, supports an innovative Academic Success Program at South Dakota State University. The program is designed to help students who have been re-admitted to SDSU following suspension due to low academic achievement.

Iowa State Engineer and Goodrich Partner to Develop Fuel Nozzles

Hui Hu, an Iowa State University associate professor of aerospace engineering, is working with engineers from the Goodrich Corp. to test and characterize the next generation of fuel nozzles.

CSB to Hold Public Hearing Tomorrow, December 15, as Part of the CSB Deepwater Horizon Investigation

CSB Board Will Hear Testimony on how Offshore Drilling is Managed and Regulated in Other Countries

Cornell Joins Team Taking Head-first Plunge Into Algae Biofuels

Cornell University researchers have joined other scientists and a biofuel research company on a mission to develop a commercial-scale algae-to-fuel facility by 2015. The effort is backed by a $9 million award from the U.S. Department of Energy.

Engineering Researchers Partner With Toyota; DOE Grant Will Further Work Toward a More Efficient Charger for Hybrid-Electric Vehicles

A $3.9 million award from the U.S. Department of Energy will allow electrical engineering researchers at the University of Arkansas to continue contributing to the development of a compact and highly efficient silicon-carbide charger for hybrid electric vehicles. The benefits of the project extend beyond vehicles into other areas, such as wind and solar power, and could lead to reduced energy consumption in the United States.

Research Looks at Alternative Power for Military

South Dakota State University has a major role in a $10 million project to deliver alternative power technologies to help the U.S. military supply power to units in the field. The three-year project began in May 2009.

Mixing Blood and Oil: Conference Tackles Similar Challenges from Two Major Industries

Scientists and engineers from two of the nation's largest industries - medicine and energy - came together this week to explore the synergies in moving oil and pumping blood.

Time Ripe to Move Energy Storage Idea Off Drawing Board

Need has caught up with Case Western Reserve University researcher Gerhard Welsch's design for a self-healing, high-energy capacitor he patented a decade ago. ARPA-E has granted Welsch $2.25 million to start producing the small and lightweight device for hybrid and electric cars and more.

Registration Open for Sandia-Sponsored 4th International Conference on Integration of Renewable and Distributed Energy Resources

Registration is open for the 4th International Conference on the Integration of Renewable and Distributed Energy Resources, the premier event for technical discussion of electric integration of new energy resources.

Advanced Energy Conference To Illuminate Latest Technologies For 21st Century Clean Energy Economy

Leading Energy Organizations to Highlight Latest Job-Producing Energy Technologies at Nov. 8-9 Conference in N.Y.C.


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