GE Tests ‘Revolutionary’ Engine Architecture on the World’s Fastest Supercomputer

GE Aerospace and the Oak Ridge National Laboratory developed models to study performance of open fan engine architecture, which removes the nacelle completely.

CFM’s RISE open fan engine architecture. (Image: GE Aerospace)

CFM’s RISE open fan engine architecture. (Image: GE Aerospace)

GE Aerospace has used the world’s fastest supercomputer to run simulations for research and development of its new open fan engine architecture.

Frontier, a recently commissioned supercomputer at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), has processing power of about 37,000 GPUs, making it capable of crunching data at exascale speed, or more than a quintillion calculations per second. For comparison, it would take every person on Earth combined more than four years to do what the supercomputer can in one second.

To model engine performance and noise levels, GE Aerospace created software capable of operating on the supercomputer. By coupling its computational fluid dynamics software with Frontier, GE simulated air movement of a full-scale open fan design with incredible detail.

“Developing game-changing new aircraft engines requires game-changing technical capabilities. With supercomputing, GE Aerospace engineers are redefining the future of flight and solving problems that would have previously been impossible,” said Mohamed Ali, vice president and general manager of engineering for GE Aerospace.

Ali says the project shows that supercomputing is a revolutionary tool for designing aircraft engines for a “once-in-a-generation step change” in improved fuel efficiency, a critical step on the path to the industry’s target of net zero CO2 emissions by 2050.

GE Aerospace and Safran Aircraft Engines unveiled in 2021 the CFM RISE (revolutionary Innovation for Sustainable Engines) program, which is operated by CFM International, a 50/50 joint company between GE and Safran Aircraft Engines.

The program tests advanced engine architectures such as the open fan, along with advanced thermal management, combustion and hybrid electric capabilities. The goal of the RISE Program is to develop technologies that enable a future engine to achieve at least 20 percent lower fuel consumption and 20 percent fewer CO2 emissions compared to today’s most efficient engines.

Open fan engine architecture fully removes the nacelle for greater propulsive efficiency while achieving the same speed and cabin experience. supercomputing power and software tools are helping engineers understand open fan aerodynamic and acoustic physics in new ways. They can better evaluate new engine technologies at flight scale in the design phase. As a result, GE can improve test hardware designs and optimize engine performance and airframe integration.

“GE Aerospace’s work illustrates one of the primary features of exascale computing: The ability to understand nature quantitatively in its full complexity,” said Bronson Messer, director of science for ORNL’s Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility, which houses Frontier. “Like any unique scientific instrument, realizing this promise requires dedicated experts like the GE Aerospace team and OLCF staff to turn ideas into insight. This result is a tour de force of computational science, made possible by collaborations like this and the unique capabilities of Frontier.”

Frontier is an HPE Cray EX supercomputer from Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) with more than 9,400 nodes, each equipped with a 3rd Gen AMD EPYC CPU and four AMD Instinct 250X accelerators. The Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility is a DOE Office of Science user facility.