News Service


Skip Derra, News Service, (515) 294-4917


AMES, Iowa --

IBM grant leads to computer cluster collaboration

Mark Gordon, a distinguished professor of chemistry at Iowa State University and Ames Laboratory program director for Applied Mathematics and Computational Sciences, is the principal investigator for a major IBM grant awarded to ISU's chemistry department. The Shared University Research (SUR) grant provided $665,000 worth of state-of-the-art computers that Ames Laboratory's Scalable Computing Lab and ISU's chemistry and physics departments will use to advance "cluster computing."

By networking groups of high-performance workstations, researchers can create computer clusters that operate at speeds comparable to today's most advanced parallel computers for a fraction of the cost, making supercomputing power more cost effective, Gordon said. The Scalable Computing Lab is home for the 15, dual-processor IBM Power 3 computers supplied by the SUR grant. The Power 3 systems will be used to determine the best ways to communicate between computers in a cluster and for applications in theoretical chemistry and physics, such as running quantum chemistry code and modeling new materials with specific magnetic and high- temperature properties.

"The SUR grant is highly competitive," Gordon said. "The fact that we received it says that Ames Lab's and ISU's combined expertise is very attractive to IBM and that they see great promise in our collaborative efforts."

For more information, contact Gordon at (515) 294-0452, or Saren Johnston, Ames Laboratory Public Affairs, (515) 294- 3474.

Cleaner power for China and Japan

David Kao, a civil and construction engineering professor at Iowa State University, designed an inexpensive and environmentally friendly hydro-turbine system that could be used on international waterways in the near future. The patented system differs from conventional hydro-turbines primarily by its vertical upward flow passage application, a free open-exit-flow discharge arrangement and the elimination of a draft tube.

Shijin Huang, a civil engineering graduate student who is gathering experimental and analytical data on the new system for his dissertation, said the new approach "could lead to improved downstream water quality, decreased injury to migrating fish, enhanced mechanical performance, and a reduction in construction, operation and maintenance costs of hydro-power plants."

Huang added that the new system would benefit people in developing and underdeveloped regions of the world where huge hydroelectric potential exists. "It's an affordable and environmentally friendly way to utilize the energy associated with the nearby rivers and streams," Huang said. "People in these regions currently burn wood as their primary energy supply, which results in increased air pollution, extended flooding, soil erosion and regional desertification."

Kao said industries and governmental agencies in China and Japan have expressed an interest in the system. The work is being done through the International Institute of Theoretical and Applied Physics, a collaboration between Iowa State University and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). For more information, contact Kao at (515) 294-0936, or Mitch Mihalovich, Engineering Communications, (515) 294-4344.

Portable scanner ensures engine integrity

The Engine Titanium Consortium, of which Iowa State University is a member, has developed a new device to help ensure the safety of aircraft engines. A portable eddy current scanner was developed to detect specific defects in titanium called hard alpha inclusions. In 1989, one such inclusion in a fan disk was identified as the cause of the Sioux City, Iowa, crash in which the disk came apart and severed crucial hydraulic lines. Researchers at ISU's Center for Nondestructive Evaluation (CNDE) worked with other members of the Engine Titanium Consortium to develop the new device for fast, versatile inspection of engines.

"The automated system performs multiple scans, can be used on various problem sites and on a variety of engines, making it extremely cost-effective," said Lisa Brasche, CNDE associate director. "The scanner offers controlled scanning with better sensitivity and reliability, and at a much lower cost than existing detection methods."

Development of the device has been funded by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration in cooperation with the aircraft industry. The technology has been successfully used at a number of airline facilities and is now manufactured and sold by UniWest, Pasco, Wash. For more information, contact Brasche at (515) 294-5227, or Anita Rollins, IPRT Public Affairs, (515) 294-1113.

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