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GE partners with Livermore Labs to explore efficient aircraft fuel injectors (video)

Zachary Lutz

What would you do with six months of dedicated access to 261.3 teraflops of computational power? As you ponder that question, consider the case of GE Global Research, which has just announced its participation with the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in an effort to design more powerful and efficient aircraft engines by way of computer simulation. Specifically, GE will partner with researchers from Arizona State University and Cornell University to study the unsteady spray phenomena that's thought to be ideal for fuel injectors. Through Large Eddy Simulation, GE hopes to discover an ideal spray pattern and fuel injector design, and reduce its number of lengthy, real-world optimization trials. While the research is initially aimed at aircraft engines, the knowledge gained from these experiments may work its way into GE's other products, such as locomotive engines and land-based gas turbines. For a glimpse into GE's current research, be sure to hop the break.

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09 April 2012

GE Global Research To Partner With Livermore National Lab and Universities On Supercomputing Project

GE researchers to explore ways of improving fuel injectors through supercomputing

Goal of making more powerful engines that run cleaner and require less fuel

NISKAYUNA, N.Y., April 9, 2012 – GE Global Research has been selected by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) to participate in an incubator program that will use high-performance computing (HPC) in an effort to accelerate development of next-generation fuel injectors for GE's engine fleet. Global Research will collaborate with Arizona State University (ASU) and Cornell University on this project.

GE mechanical engineer Madhu Pai, from the Computational Combustion Lab (ATMS) will have six months of dedicated access to a portion of the Sierra supercomputer - one of the most powerful in the world – to study the physics behind the working of the fuel injector to optimize its design. Pai discusses the importance of supercomputing in supporting these studies.

"Currently fuel injectors are designed after lengthy optimization trials, partly because today's fuel injectors have complex geometries that challenge conventional wisdom on how these injectors work. High-fidelity computer simulations can significantly reduce the number of trials and can provide insight into why a fuel injector behaves the way it does", said Pai.

Scientists hope to gain a better understanding of critical unsteady spray phenomena observed in fuel injectors used in today's liquid-fueled engines. These unsteady spray phenomena are sometimes inaccessible to experimental measurements. Computer simulations can provide much needed insight into the origin of the unsteadiness, but doing this requires very powerful supercomputers to accurately capture the underlying physics.

"Using the supercomputer, we will apply a methodology called Large Eddy Simulation (LES) to model the fuel injector. The supercomputer will give us a 360 degree view of the inside of the injector, so that we can better understand the physics behind the design", said Pai. "Having a better understanding of how the fuel/air mixture combusts will help us ultimately build more powerful engines that consume less fuel and have lower emissions. HPC will ultimately help in reducing development time and cost of the fuel injector."

Aircraft fuel injectors are being studied in this trial, but successful testing of this computer simulation methodology could yield new insights that benefit other GE products, including the fuel injectors used in locomotives and land-based gas turbines. The methodology can potentially be applied to study nebulizers for aerosol delivery.

Access to LLNL's supercomputing pilot program, known as "hpc4energy", was highly sought after. More than 30 companies applied; GE Global Research was one of six selected. The goal of the program is to facilitate more R&D engagement between the National Labs and energy companies to help increase America's economic competitiveness.

The supercomputing project will begin in April at the LLNL's facility in California.

Details on the LLNL incubator program are available at

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