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Supercomputing could play role in energy development

Advancing technology to secure the nation’s energy future was among the topics discussed at the North Dakota Energy Symposium held at NDSU on March 5. Attendees from industry, government and academia discussed the role of supercomputing facilities including NDSU’s Center for Computationally Assisted Science and Technology. Such facilities can aid in development of clean energy technologies, smart-grid transmission systems, increased production in oil and gas fields, and methods to better predict wind farm production.

“By merging together the best ideas and practices from university, government and industry, we can produce more energy with better environmental stewardship,” said U.S. Sen. John Hoeven, who was the keynote speaker at the event. “North Dakota is leading the way in energy production, and research and technology play a key role in our success.”

NDSU Provost Bruce Rafert emphasized that important advances in clean energy production have widespread global impacts. “It’s one of the great geopolitical issues of our time and all are issues of great importance for North Dakota,” Rafert said. He noted the use of high performance computing in energy research to optimize development, design and processing through modeling and simulation.

Collaboration between national scientific laboratories and NDSU’s supercomputing capabilities could lead to increases in energy production with a smaller environmental footprint, according to Hoeven.

“In partnership with industry and academia, the high performance computing and science and technology expertise resident at national labs such as Lawrence Livermore can stimulate the rapid advancement of U.S. clean energy technologies essential to the nation’s energy security,” said Tomás Díaz de la Rubia, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory deputy director for science and technology, who spoke at the symposium.

NDSU has received $18 million for supercomputing research from the U.S. Department of Energy since 2008.

Computation often serves as a fourth dimension of research, according to Philip Boudjouk, NDSU vice president for research, creative activities and technology Transfer. Research projects highlighted at NDSU included solar and photovoltaic energy applications, oil shale, liquid silicon and new polymers from renewable crops in North Dakota, among others.

“Researchers will develop a Mount Everest of data by noon on any given day,” said Boujdouk. “CCAST at NDSU provides access to computer modeling and simulation, on-ramps to federal data centers and computational expertise. These are valuable tools to advance research.”

The tsunami of data requires powerful computational science to solve problems, according to Martin Ossowski, Center for Computationally Assisted Science and Technology director. These resources are being used by industry on many projects including designing drill bits and pipelines.

Mark Nisbet, North Dakota principal manager for Xcel Energy, emphasized the energy industry’s creation of jobs in the state, as well as his company’s support of a diverse mix of energy sources, and the benefits of access to engineering students at NDSU.

Moderators of expert panel discussions at the symposium included NDSU representatives Kalpana Katti, Distinguished Professor of civil engineering; Alan Kallmeyer, chair of mechanical engineering; and Kendall Nygard, computer science professor.

Sponsors of the event included Hoeven, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, The Howard Baker Forum and NDSU’s Office of Research, Creative Activities and Technology Transfer. 

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Vice President for University Relations
North Dakota State University
Phone: +1 (701) 231-1068 - Fax: (701) 231-1989
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