Aggressive national goals for significantly reducing petroleum use and greenhouse gas emissions require major improvements in all aspects of our nation’s energy use. Combustion processes have historically dominated electrical power production and transportation systems. Despite significant advances in improving the efficiency and reducing the costs of alternative energy sources, combustion-based systems are projected to dominate the marketplace for decades. Consequently, these systems must be optimized for energy efficiency and reduced emissions.

Project Details

The motivating problem underlying this project is a sufficiently realistic simulation of the in-cylinder processes in an internal combustion engine using low-temperature combustion for which reactivity-controlled compression ignition (RCCI) is the exemplar. The enabled exascale-era simulations will address key scientific questions regarding mixture formation effects, the multistage ignition of a diesel surrogate fuel, lifted flame stabilization, jet reentrainment affected by cylinder-wall geometry, and emissions.

The simulation will account for the isentropic compression, subsequent injection of the high-reactivity fuel, and combustion processes in a compression ignition engine. Necessary physics include gas compression and models of fuel injection process, spray vaporization (i.e., injecting liquid fuel sprays into high-pressure conditions), and mixing. Combustion processes include autoignition, flame propagation, and soot/thermal radiation, all in a nontrivial engine geometry. The scenario involves kinetically controlled processes in turbulent combustion, including ignition, extinction, and emissions. The application used for this project, Pele, implements a hybrid large-eddy simulation (LES)/direct numerical simulation (DNS) approach in both the compressible and low-Mach limits at which the project team will refine the mesh to the DNS limit where necessary to capture turbulence/chemistry interactions by using the machinery of adaptive mesh refinement while restricting grid resolution to that required for a high-fidelity LES model far from the flame.

This project is structured around providing a combination of first-principles DNS and near-first-principles DNS/LES hybrid simulations to advance the scientific community’s understanding of fundamental turbulence-chemistry interactions in device-relevant conditions. The exascale motivating problem is to perform high-fidelity simulations of the relevant processes in an RCCI internal combustion engine. The relevant processes include turbulence, mixing, spray vaporization, low-temperature ignition, flame propagation, and soot/radiation. RCCI is thermodynamically favorable relative to existing engines and thus holds the promise of groundbreaking efficiencies while operating in a regime that limits pollutant formation. The roadmap toward this exascale-era motivating problem includes simulations of a multi-injection low-temperature diesel jet into an open domain with a large alkane fuel undergoing two-stage ignition processes, dilute spray evaporation and mixing, and multi-injection with fuels of varying reactivity in a geometry that influences the mixing field. The multi-injection simulation forms the challenge problem to demonstrate new exascale capability.

The specific science-based challenge problem is derived from the roadmap toward the motivating exascale-era problem. Specifically, the challenge problem demonstrates the ability to simulate the interaction of two fuels with varying reactivity under a multi-pulse injection strategy into an engine-relevant geometry. It will serve as a baseline for a series of simulations that will enable isolating the impacts of effects, such as spray evaporation on mixture fraction and temperature, alternative fuels, and the design of strategies to control combustion phasing and subsequent combustion rate. The problem will be tractable under a realistic allocation using the full capabilities of an exascale machine.

Principal Investigator(s):

Jacqueline Chen, Sandia National Laboratories


Sandia National Laboratories, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Argonne National Laboratory, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of Connecticut

Progress to date

  • Pele’s low-Mach combustion simulation code was extended with a capability for generalized geometries, including complex piston bowl and spray valve configurations.
  • The Pele combustion simulation code was ported to exploit the accelerated hardware architectures via CUDA, HIP, and DPC++ offloading constructs. PeleC and PeleLM scale on 50–90% of Summit GPUs.
  • A particle-based multiphase model was implemented to spray fueling in compressible and low-Mach Pele formulations.
  • Pele was coupled to the SUNDIALS suite of implicit and explicit solvers for the efficient, flexible integration stiff combustion chemical kinetics.

Exascale computing is being used to investigate and validate new low-emission, high-efficiency combustion engine designs.

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