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HPC4Mfg: Boosting American Competiveness in Clean Energy Manufacturing through High Performance Computing

February 23, 2016 - 3:50pm


Supercomputers like these at the Energy Department's national laboratories will play a key role in solving ‪‎manufacturing challenges and building clean ‪‎energy technologies right here at home.

Supercomputers like these at the Energy Department's national laboratories will play a key role in solving ‪‎manufacturing challenges and building clean ‪‎energy technologies right here at home.

Higher efficiency jet engines to save fuel; stronger fiberglass made with less energy for wind turbines and lightweight vehicles; next generation semiconductor devices for more efficient data centers: these are just a few of the manufacturing challenges that our ten new High Performance Computing for Manufacturing (HPC4Mfg) projects will tackle over the next year. 

Five of the top twelve supercomputers in the world are owned by the Energy Department. The HPC4Mfg initiative, a key piece of the Department’s Clean Energy Manufacturing Initiative, will put these remarkable high performance computing (HPC) powerhouses to work on modeling, simulating, and analyzing cutting-edge industrial products and processes—including paper manufacturing, food drying, and 3D printing aerospace parts—with the goal of dramatically reducing production costs and shortening the time it takes for clean energy innovations to break into the market.

This effort, led by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Oak Ridge National Laboratory as strong partners, couples the entrepreneurial spirit of leading U.S. manufacturers with the world-class resources and brilliant minds at our national labs to apply HPC to face some of our critical manufacturing challenges.

Created by our Advanced Manufacturing Office, the HPC4Mfg Program is forging partnerships with the Edison Welding Institute, General Electric, GlobalFoundries, the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation’s Lightweight Innovations for Tomorrow Consortium, the Ohio Supercomputer Center, Procter & Gamble, PPG Industries Inc., United Technologies Research Center, and ZoomEssence Inc. to increase the efficiency of manufacturing processes, accelerate innovative manufacturing breakthroughs to market, and reduce the manufacturing cost of clean energy products.

Within the Clean Energy Manufacturing Initiative, HPC4Mfg is our second Manufacturing Demonstration Facility – essentially a collaborative manufacturing community centered around the Energy Department’s national laboratories that shares a common research and development infrastructure. This model is designed to foster collaboration and an open exchange of best practices and know-how, breaking down siloes between researchers, equipment suppliers, and manufacturing companies.

As one project example, General Electric is partnering with Oak Ridge and Lawrence Livermore national laboratories to improve the efficiency and component life of aircraft engines through design optimization using advanced computational fluid dynamics modeling. More than 35 billion gallons of fuel are used each year worldwide in the air transportation sector. This project has the potential to dramatically cut fuel use, reduce costs, and increase engine lifetimes.

Another example project is a partnership between Procter & Gamble and Lawrence Livermore National Lab to reduce paper pulp in products by 20 percent. Papermaking is one of the most energy intensive industries because of the energy needed to dry paper pulp. By modeling the complex microstructure of paper products, Proctor & Gamble is aiming to reduce the company’s paper pulp use by 20%, reducing their energy consumption significantly and saving a bundle on costs in the process.

Last week, along with some of the visionary national lab HPC experts who will help these innovative companies attack their proposed challenges, I announced that the Energy Department is awarding $3 million to these ten Phase I projects. We are only getting started with HPC4Mfg—we will soon be announcing a second round of funding to expand this collaborative program to include even more industry partners.

In my view, the launch of the HPC4Mfg Manufacturing Demonstration Facility represents the best kind of public-private partnership. This program was developed in close consultation and collaboration with leading American manufacturers, facilitated through our American Energy & Manufacturing Competitiveness Partnership with the Council on Competitiveness.

We all want to keep the United States competitive, and one of the best ways we can do that is by accelerating clean energy innovations and energy-efficient solutions into our nation’s manufacturing companies and into whole new industries—boosting their productivity and cutting their energy costs. The ten projects we announced this week will lower the barrier of entry for key industry players to use our supercomputers to drive American manufacturing competitiveness and expansion in the years ahead. President Obama and other world leaders recently committed to doubling our investments in clean energy R&D over the next five years through the Mission Innovation initiative. It’s clear that solving our climate and energy challenges will require technological innovation—including some technology that we haven’t even come up with yet. Partnerships like HPC4Mfg will allow us to develop the breakthrough technology we need to stay globally competitive in the race for new and innovative sources of clean energy.

Find out more about the HPC4Mfg Program here, and view the full list of projects.