Together with theory and experiment, computer simulations form the third pillar of research work. They allow us to obtain insights and knowledge that has been previously inaccessible for physical, technical, financial or ethical reasons. Scientists use supercomputers to investigate the atmosphere and climate, biologically important substances, basic material properties and also chemical processes that cannot be recreated in the laboratory. In doing so, they profit from the continuously increasing computing capacity of the Jülich supercomputers. In this way, researchers will be able to study more complex processes and structures in future.
One example of the successful application of simulation sciences at Forschungszentrum Jülich is atmospheric research. Jülich scientists track the movement of trace gases in the air using their supercomputers and thus determine how air pollution influences the climate. Computer simulations can reproduce the path of noxious and trace gases in the atmosphere. While satellite observations and other measurements provide important information on emission paths, they cannot provide data on all locations and dates. For Jülich researcher Dr Martin Schultz at the Institute of Energy and Climate Research and his team, the starting point for the computer simulations is government reports on the amount of pollutants emitted in the particular country. The researchers must take into consideration all of the chemical processes in the air during which pollutants are converted or degraded. Furthermore, they must pay attention to the influence of the wind, solar radiation and temperature.
First Protein Molecules
Prof. Dominik Marx from the University of Bochum uses the Jülich supercomputers to investigate how the simplest protein molecules could have originated more than four billion years ago – long before there was any life on Earth. High pressure, high temperatures and sulphur-containing minerals may have played a part in the origins of life.
In the Hermes project, Jülich researchers and cooperation partners are jointly developing an evacuation assistant for large-scale public events. Computer simulations are used to analyse the crowd flow at large gatherings of people in order to evacuate them as quickly as possible in an emergency via escape routes and to optimally deploy safety personnel and the emergency services. The project is coordinated by the Jülich Supercomputing Centre and also involves industrial partners.
The training of young researchers to become simulation scientists is undertaken directly at Forschungszentrum Jülich. To this end, Forschungszentrum Jülich and RWTH Aachen University have jointly founded the German Research School for Simulation Sciences (GRS). GRS teaches young scientists special skills related to computer simulation in natural science and engineering – in close association with research. In this way, the students become experts in supercomputing and scientific simulations. The close cooperation practised here between a research centre and a university (RWTH Aachen University) in teaching and research is unique in Germany. Joint research training groups round off the activities on offer.