The University of Bristol is to lead a large new research project alongside Rolls Royce, CFMS and Zenotech in Bristol to simulate an entire aircraft jet engine in operation so accurately that it can be certified before it is even built.

The five year, £15m ASiMoV (Advanced Simulation and Modelling of Virtual Systems) project will be the largest high-performance computing project in the UK and will use the Isambard supercomputer in Bristol, the world’s largest ARM-based supercomputing cluster.

The university will work with the universities of Cambridge, Edinburgh, Oxford and Warwick to revolutionise the development of jet engines.

“Our aim is to achieve the world’s first high-fidelity simulation of a complete gas-turbine engine during operation, simultaneously including the effects of multiple different physical effects, including thermo-mechanics, electromagnetics, and computational fluid dynamics (CFD),” said Professor Simon McIntosh-Smith, from the University of Bristol’s Department of Computer Science (above, alongside the first rack for Isambard). “This level of simulation will require breakthroughs at all levels, including physical models, numerical solvers, algorithms, software infrastructure, and Exascale HPC hardware. If we are able to achieve simulations that are accurate enough to enable virtual certification, this will bring a major business transformation for our industrial partners.”

The Isambard system will be used by the High-Performance computing research group at the University of Bristol to explore future computer architectures to achieve the ambitious ASiMoV scientific simulation goals.

“Estimated cost savings for virtual certification are measured in the many millions of pounds per engine programme.  At the same time simulation-based design will enable much more rapid development of new engines and radical new techniques to achieve greater engine reliability and fuel efficiency,” said McIntosh-Smith.

The Bristol-led Isambard project is a collaboration of the Great Western 4 (GW4) Alliance with the Met Office, supercomputer company Cray, chip maker Cavium and chip designer Arm. Isambard is able to provide system comparison at high speed as it includes over 10,000, high-performance 64-bit ARM cores, making it one of the largest machines of its kind anywhere in the world, and the first production Arm-based supercomputer that is being used for real science.

Nick Flaherty