Improving aircraft design simulations with HPC

Advanced computing facilities at the STFC Hartree Centre have enabled a team led by Dr Neil Ashton from the University of Manchester to develop better aerodynamic models, which are now being presented to industry stakeholders including Boeing and NASA.


Reducing emissions is an increasingly important factor for aircraft manufacturers, whether through aspirations to reduce environmental damage or due to tightening EU and US regulations. Many companies also put emphasis on design for noise reduction, driven by customer desire and noise pollution concerns. Obtaining accurate estimates of aerodynamic forces is key to understanding and tackling both issues. Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) is an essential design tool for the aerospace industry, used to supplement experimental studies by providing virtual simulations. This means engineers can predict the aerodynamic effects of different aerofoil and fuselage configurations before they turn to physical wind tunnel experiments, saving time and resources. Researchers at the University of Manchester are developing and applying advanced CFD models that represent more accurate physics, better emulating real-life scenarios and offering advantages over ones used in industry. Due to ​greater complexity and number of elements in the models, the computational requirements exceeded the University of Manchester’s computing cluster. ​


In order to build a model that would explore the relationship between the different costing techniques, Albatross approached the Hartree Centre, a leading provider of intense computing and data analytics services. Combining the ability to process and analyse large quantities of complex healthcare data with the visualisation facilities required for detailed exploration and interpretation, the Hartree Centre was the perfect partner to help Albatross develop its new benchmarking data analytics platform.


High performance computing capabilities at the Hartree Centre enabled the team to develop and run models to more reasonable timescales than on their own infrastructure – turnin​g hours into minutes and months into days. The project results were so promising that the team has presented its work to industry leaders at a variety of conferences, garnering attention from both Boeing and NASA. Ultimately, the goal is to develop a model that can be used in industry to model aircraft designs more accurately, resulting in greater fuel efficiency, R&D cost-savings and a variety of environmental benefits.​

“To study an entire aircraft using CFD you really need a big computing facility. The Hartree centre’s HPC facilities allow you to use the most advanced CFD models, which on standard HPC facilities may take many months to compute. On the Hartree machines it only takes a matter of days. That speed up is invaluable for academics and industry​.”​

Neil Ashton, University of Manchester​

Join Newsletter

Provide your details to receive regular updates from the STFC Hartree Centre.