Pioneering software called ACE3P was developed nearly a quarter of a century ago to refine the design of particle accelerators and their components. Now, the latest incarnation is being adapted for scientific supercomputing and manufacturing design, thanks to partnerships between two companies and the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory.
The collaborations are part of an Energy Department program called Small Business Innovation Research, or SBIR, which is designed to be a win-win for both the lab and the community at large, said Matt Garrett, SLAC’s director of technology transfer and private partnerships. .
“In these SBIR projects, technology developed by the labs and refined by our industry partners goes into the community for broad use, then comes back to us to improve the facilities that are a critical part of SLAC operations,” said Garrett.
By helping companies develop their technologies and build markets, he added, the program is also creating new domestic supply chains for things the lab — and in some cases the wider community — needs.
ACE3P was developed at SLAC about two decades ago to create virtual prototypes of particle accelerator components that will work in real life, and it is still widely used. ACE3P stands for Advanced Computational Electromagnetics 3D Parallel, showing that it enables high-fidelity 3D simulations on thousands of computer processing units simultaneously, helping researchers solve large, complex problems faster.
In recent years, ACE3P has expanded to help researchers at universities and industry perform simulations in other fields, including telecommunications and electromagnetic modeling of the human body, said Cho-Kuen Ng, a chief scientist at SLAC who helped with developing ACE3P.
Today, SLAC is partnering with two New York companies – Kitware and Simmetrix – to extend the reach of ACE3P. The goal is to make it much easier for researchers to use DOE supercomputers and determine the ideal shape for accelerator components with design processes that can be applied to “just about anything,” says Simmetrix CEO Mark Beall — from airplane wings to batteries for mobile phones and injection molds for toys.
Supercomputing made easier
SLAC’s work with Kitware dates back to 2015. The company creates open-source software platforms and tailors them to the needs of specific businesses and government agencies; this last part is how it makes money from its over-the-counter products.
In its current project with SLAC, the company is integrating one of its open source platforms, Computational Model Builder, into the ACE3P software already present at DOE’s National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC) at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.
About 8,000 DOE-funded scientists use NERSC to conduct unclassified research on a wide variety of topics, including climate change, protein structure, and the evolution of the universe. But as the size and complexity of those simulations increase, they become increasingly difficult to manage.
Until recently, users had to manually type in codes—instructions for running the simulations—while simultaneously coordinating and tracking the project’s many intertwined threads, each producing a vast amount of data, some of which is analyzed on site. . It is becoming increasingly difficult to organize and manage all this. And commercial interfaces that can help untangle the clutter aren’t available to supercomputers, said John Tourtellott, Kitware’s principal investigator for the SLAC project.
Now that Computational Model Builder is integrated into ACE3P, NERSC users can set the criteria for their simulations by filling out forms, pulling down menus and clicking instead of typing instructions. Then they can watch the simulation unfold and check the results before downloading the data to their own computer, Tourtellott said.
“While we can’t put a number on it, it has productivity benefits,” he said. “It can significantly reduce the amount of information that has to be entered manually and the errors that occur as a result. It also leaves more time for the actual science.”
Kitware also created a similar dashboard at DOE’s Los Alamos National Laboratory for researchers using the lab’s Truchas software platform to simulate metal casting and 3D printing.
“The reason we started that project was not so much to save users time, but because we would meet potential new users who would look at how much work their simulation would take and say, ‘It’s not worth my time’ and move on. said Neil Carlson, a visiting scientist at Los Alamos who led the Truchas project for eight years. “Creating the new interface is really a way to lower that barrier to entry.”
Another plus, Carlson said, is that the work Kitware did for the Los Alamos project was collapsed into Computational Model Builder so it’s available to everyone, “and that kind of floats everyone’s boat.
The shape of things to come
What Kitware does for a supercomputer user experience, Simmetrix does for automatically generating meshes that represent geometric shapes in simulations.
Mechanical engineers use a mathematical technique called finite element analysis to see how the things they design — be it a small widget or a huge gear component — hold up under realistic operating temperatures, pressures, vibrations, and so on. They can identify weaknesses, reshape components and iterate to come up with the optimal design in a computer before building a prototype. ACE3P has been instrumental in using these types of simulations to design accelerator components for decades.
Finite element analysis breaks down complex shapes into a number of much simpler ones, represented by meshes. The computer adds up the effects of each of these simple shapes on the performance of that particular design. Finer meshes allow for more detailed simulations, but require much more computation time. Coarse meshes take less time, but may not be as accurate. This process of mesh generation must be repeated over and over to achieve an optimal design.
“If you had to do this manually, it would be incredibly tedious and a waste of time,” said Simmetrix CEO Beall. The only practical solution, he said, is to do it automatically.
SLAC researchers had developed a high-level process for predicting how a shape could be changed to produce a design that meets their requirements. But this process had no way of automatically predicting which shape to test next or of automatically updating the geometry and meshes for each new design. Simmetrix provided those missing parts to create a fully automatic process for updating and optimizing shapes and their meshes with ACE3P and similar design simulation platforms, Beall said. This allows people to design better products faster and cheaper and can be applied to almost any product, including the manufacturing process itself.
Automating this feature in ACE3P is a big win for SLAC and for the company, which can build on everything it creates for SLAC and sell it to the public.
While the initial focus of the SLAC project is on the design of an accelerator for scientific facilities that will take decades to develop, Beall said, the model would also facilitate the design of accelerator technology for cancer treatment and antenna design. and wireless devices.
“Both particle accelerators and medical devices use electromagnetic fields,” he said. “How efficient they are and how well they serve their purpose depends entirely on the fields they make in them, which depends on the shape of the components.”
SLAC’s Ng said the SBIR project, which ended last year, has improved SLAC’s process for optimizing the shape of accelerator cavities with ACE3P, allowing designers to update design parameters automatically rather than trial and error. However, he said there is still some work to be done to make the process more widely applicable for general use outside of the lab.
Beall added that bits and pieces of the work done at SLAC have been integrated into Simmetrix products, including software the company has been selling for 25 years. “This project allowed us to develop new capabilities that will be very useful to our customers,” he said.
Companies interested in partnering with SLAC through the SBIR program may contact Matt Garrett at: email@example.com with questions. The latest round of DOE SBIR funding announcements was released last month.
The ACE3P SBIR projects conducted in conjunction with Kitware and Simmetrix were supported by the DOE Office of Science. NERSC is a DOE Office of Science user facility.
SLAC is a vibrant multi-program lab that explores how the universe works at the largest, smallest, and fastest scales and invents powerful tools used by scientists around the world. With research spanning particle physics, astrophysics and cosmology, materials, chemistry, life and energy sciences, and scientific informatics, we help solve real-world problems and advance the nation’s interests.
SLAC is administered by Stanford University for the Office of Science of the United States Department of Energy. The Office of Science is the largest proponent of basic science research in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time.