A De in the Life

by Michael Mullaney on November 4, 2010

The capabilities of computer modeling are truly astounding. Researchers at Rensselaer are building multiscale models of new nuclear reactor designs that scale from the macroscale all the way down to the atomic scale. So what does that mean?

Imagine the old computer game Sim City. The player can erect buildings, build roads and facilities, fill the city with citizens, busses, and cars, and then sit back and watch the city evolve. Modeling and simulation applies the same principles, but with very precisely tuned parameters. Once the computer model is built, I feed X input into it and it eventually results in Y outcome. Multiscale modeling means feeding X input into the model, and then being able to see the Y outcome from multiple different perspectives. In the case of the nuclear reactor, they can watch to see how the input affects the reactor system as a whole – the stress loads, the temperatures, or the wiring, for example. But the researchers are also able to zoom in and see how the input affects things at the molecular level – to see critical details like if there’s energy loss or electron leakage because two materials are interacting in an unexpected way at the nanoscale somewhere in the guts of the reactor.

Well, mix this complex multiscale modeling with haptics – the science of touch – and health care diagnostics, and biomedical engineering, and you get CeMSIM. It’s the new Center for Modeling, Simulation, and Imaging in Medicine, which Rensselaer announced today. It’s led by Professor Suvranu De, who you can read about here, here, and here.

Up top are a few nice news stories from about a month ago on Suvranu’s research. They’re a great example of the kinds of issues that CeMSIM is aiming to tackle.

NOTE: I couldn’t embed the videos here, so clicking on the pictures will open a new window where you can watch the videos.

Some grist for the mill: