Quick: what does the human throat have in common with an industrial smoke stack and the Pacific Ocean?
The answer is no joke. All three present significant problems involving fluid dynamics. And all three are yielding their secrets to scientists through the computational might of Ontario’s High Performance Computing Virtual Laboratory—HPCVL. Based at Queen’s University in Kingston, HPCVL offers high performance computing services to researchers across Ontario and
elsewhere in Canada.
Dr. Andrew Pollard of Queen’s University in Kingston, has been using the resources of HPCVL for five years now in his research into the behaviour of high-speed currents of air. It’s an area that has application in the design of objects as diverse as industrial smoke stacks and asthma inhalers—and Dr. Pollard has worked on both. “The factors involved are very complex,” he explains. “Empirical lab studies can’t handle them. Only mathematical models can deal with all the variables, but that takes computing power.”
And that’s where HPCVL comes in. The central cluster of 11 Sun computers delivers the power of 408 processors and 1.2 terabytes of memory. By 2008, the number or processors will grow to 2,200, enabling the system to perform a staggering 18 trillion operations per second.