January 21, 2021
A collaboration between Idaho National Laboratory and Orem, Utah-based Coreform makes modeling and simulation of advanced nuclear reactors aster, less costly and more efficient. The partnership improves on an open-source INL platform to make simulations more true to life, benefiting the projects that leverage it.
INL’s Multiphysics Object-Oriented Simulation Environment (MOOSE) is a general-purpose, open-source tool that has been used to analyze groundwater transport in Australia, research mining technology in Switzerland, and solve next-generation reactor issues at INL and elsewhere. MOOSE works after systems being modeled are divided into tiny regions for simulation purposes, a widely used technique known as the finite element method.
MOOSE then computes what happens in each of these small volumes, these finite elements, as they interact with each other under specified heat, pressure, vibration and other environmental conditions. These calculations eventually result in a prediction of what will happen to the system over time. This information can be used to troubleshoot potential problem areas and locate possible failure points.
In this modeling technique, smaller finite elements result in a finer mesh of points where calculations take place. A finer mesh, in turn, leads to a more realistic simulation. However, the finer the mesh, the more computation and the longer the simulation runs.
In fact, says Permann, the ratio of mesh points to run time is about 1:1. So, cutting the mesh points in half reduces the run time to about half.
Coming up with the right mesh, has sometimes required costly commercial software or been a matter of trial and error using a brute force approach. What has been lacking, according to Permann, was an inexpensive yet efficient way to build the mesh of simulation points. That situation has changed with the joint INL-Coreform project.
With this MOOSE enhancement project, INL has added Coreform’s free-for-noncommercial-use tool that helps researchers quickly generate the right set of mesh points for a specific set of circumstances. The MOOSE upgrade project was funded by a Department of Energy SBIR (Small Business Innovation Research) award, and Coreform’s part was built as a variant of the company’s commercial mesh generating software.
In its products, Coreform uses spline technology, a mathematical approach that can closely approximate the real world.
The mesh generating tool has made the capabilities of MOOSE more accessible to researchers, expanding its pool of potential users. Further enhancements of MOOSE are in the works.
Sources: Press materials received from the company and additional information gleaned from the company’s website.