GE Aerospace runs supercomputer simulations to test open fan engine architecture

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Aviation FestivalTo support the development of a revolutionary new open fan engine architecture for the future of flight, GE Aerospace has run simulations using the world’s fastest supercomputer capable of crunching data in excess of exascale speed, or more than a quintillion calculations per second.

To model engine performance and noise levels, GE Aerospace created software capable of operating on Frontier, a recently commissioned supercomputer at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Oak Ridge National Laboratory with processing power of about 37,000 GPUs. For comparison, Frontier’s processing speed is so powerful, it would take every person on Earth combined more than four years to do what the supercomputer can in one second.

By coupling GE Aerospace’s computational fluid dynamics software with Frontier, GE was able to simulate air movement of a full-scale open fan design with incredible detail.

“Developing game-changing new aircraft engines requires game-changing technical capabilities. With supercomputing, GE Aerospace engineers are redefining the future of flight and solving problems that would have previously been impossible,” said Mohamed Ali, vice president and general manager of engineering for GE Aerospace. “Together with the U.S. Department of Energy and Oak Ridge National Laboratory, we are showing supercomputing to be a revolutionary tool for designing aircraft engines for a once-in-a-generation step change in improved fuel efficiency — critical for helping the aviation industry toward its target of net zero CO2 emissions by 2050,” Ali said.

GE Aerospace and Safran Aircraft Engines unveiled in 2021 the CFM RISE (Revolutionary Innovation for Sustainable Engines) program, which includes development of advanced new engine architectures such as the open fan, along with advanced thermal management, combustion, and hybrid electric capabilities. The goal of the RISE Program is to develop technologies that enable a future engine to achieve at least 20% lower fuel consumption and 20% fewer CO2 emissions compared to today’s most efficient engines.

Through the RISE program, CFM International continues to mature open fan engine architecture, which removes the nacelle for greater propulsive efficiency while achieving the same speed and cabin experience commercial aviation passengers can expect from air travel today. GE Aerospace’s use of supercomputing power and software tools are helping engineers understand open fan aerodynamic and acoustic physics in new ways. For example, Frontier unlocks the ability to better evaluate new engine technologies at flight scale in the design phase. As a result, GE can improve test hardware designs and better optimise engine performance and airframe integration.

“GE Aerospace’s work illustrates one of the primary features of exascale computing: The ability to understand nature quantitatively in its full complexity,” said Bronson Messer, director of science for ORNL’s Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility, which houses Frontier. “Like any unique scientific instrument, realizing this promise requires dedicated experts like the GE Aerospace team and OLCF staff to turn ideas into insight. This result is a tour de force of computational science, made possible by collaborations like this and the unique capabilities of Frontier.”

Frontier is an HPE Cray EX supercomputer from Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) with more than 9,400 nodes, each equipped with a 3rd Gen AMD EPYC™️ CPU and four AMD Instinct™️ 250X accelerators. The Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility is a DOE Office of Science user facility.

UT-Battelle manages Oak Ridge National Laboratory for DOE’s Office of Science, the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the U.S. DOE’s Office of Science is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time.

GE Aerospace and its advanced research center have collaborated with the DOE for more than a decade to demonstrate the impact of high-performance computing on industrial design for flight. Progress on the RISE program is on track for ground and flight tests in the middle of this decade to demonstrate new technologies for use in future commercial aircraft engines that could enter service in the mid-2030s.

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