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Computational chemistry wins Nobel Prize

Computer modelling of molecules has gained the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for 2013. According to the official citation, the three Nobellists – Martin Karplus of the Université de Strasbourg, France and Harvard University, USA; Michael Levitt of Stanford University School of Medicine, USA; and Arieh Warshel of the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, USA – received the award ‘for the development of multi-scale models for complex chemical systems’.

Grant awarded for study of uncertainties in simulations Mechanical engineering professor, George Biros, at The University of Texas at Austin has been awarded a $2.85 million grant by the US Department of Energy for the quantification of uncertainties in large-scale computer simulations.

Altium partners with Brazil- based reseller

Altium has formed a strategic partnership with SKA Group, one of Brazil’s largest resellers of Dassault Systèmes and SolidWorks products. SKA will show how Altium’s electronics design products work alongside solutions such as SolidWorks.

Ferrari deploys Ansys solutions

Ferrari is optimising critical components of its GT racecars, like brake cooling systems and full-body aerodynamics, using advanced simulation technology from Ansys.

Tom Wilkie hears about the human side of software modelling and simulation


he image of software as a playground in which engineers are free to make mistakes – provided they

learn from them – was a slightly unexpected perspective to emerge from Matlab Expo, a conference and exhibition organised by MathWorks on 8 October at Silverstone, Northamptonshire, UK. About 900 people registered to hear a day’s worth of talks intended to illustrate the application of the software to engineering and science. The case for modelling and simulation in engineering design was put simply by Kevin Daffey, head of electrical power and control systems for Rolls Royce: ‘You couldn’t design an aircraft engine without it,’ he said. But his overview of the range of applications in which software plays an indispensable role perhaps surprised the audience, many of whom were specialists in niche areas, by its breadth. It ranged from familiar topics such as finite element analysis (FEA), and computational fluid dynamics (CFD) to slightly less obvious areas such as materials engineering. Yet it was important, he said, to be able to predict how materials would behave, and he noted that support was needed from both universities and Government to develop the codes that could be used by the whole industry. For Rolls Royce, he pointed out, other software models were also important – especially thermo- mechanical modelling. The company had to make business-critical decisions


often supported by the modelling scenarios, so any mistake that got through the design stage could be costly. Designs had to be validated in practice, he continued but, because there are so many parameters, design of experiments (DOE) was high on his list of essential software. DOE also figured high in the priorities of Bob Lygoe, who specialises in powertrain calibration computer-aided engineering and optimisation at the Ford Motor Company in Essex, UK. He pointed out that there was a trade-off between engine efficiency and limiting emissions so that car engine efficiency had decreased by more than eight

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Software makes mistakes less costly

the car engine and after-treatment (exhaust) as a complete system, while achieving a 15 per cent reduction in CO2

emissions. The project, Dr Lygoe said, was an exercise in model-based optimisation that looked as if it could yield improvements in fuel economy of between three and five per cent, in contrast to the previous trend where fuel economy worsened as emissions were reduced. It was, he said, compute-intensive work and may need to be migrated to parallel processing. But a long view is required to discern the full benefits of model- based simulation and engineering – because they become apparent only over time, according to Sanjiv Sharma, an EADS expert in modelling and simulation methods and tools for Airbus. (EADS has some 4,600 users of Matlab, he said.)


per cent over the past couple of decades as a result of pressure to meet stringent regulations on CO2 emissions. Using DOE methodology, however, would allow engineers to find the Pareto front – the set of choices where it is impossible to improve one parameter without worsening at least one other. Ford is working with Land Rover, Johnson Matthey, ITM Power, Revolve Technologies, Cambustion, the Universities of Bradford, Liverpool, and Birmingham, on a research and development project called CREO (for CO2

Reduction through Emission Optimisation) to improve

He reminded the conference that, although modelling and simulation cut costs by reducing the amount of physical simulation that has to take place, it still takes time to build reliable models in software. He cautioned: ‘The intended impact takes place over time and the benefits may not be realised in the first product.’ This means that the full benefit may not be apparent until the second product is designed and, in the context of the aircraft industry, this could mean a time-scale of eight years or more.

Tom Wilkie’s full article is available at

@scwmagazine l

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