HPC-Europa3 enables on-site collaboration

Armin Iravani (left) is discussing with Atte Sillanpää, who is the local project manager for the HPCE3 programme at CSC. Photo: Sami Ilvonen, CSC.

HPC-Europa3 enables on-site collaboration

Tommi Kutilainen

In winter 2018 two PhD students, Armin Iravani from Austria and Juris Vencels from Latvia got their HPCE3 grants and headed for Finland and CSC. They did not come to CSC primarily because of the HPC resources but to deepen their collaboration with their hosts here at CSC. HPC-Europa3 is an EC programme funding 3 –  13 week research visits to nine European countries' HPC-centers.

Armin Iravani came from Montan University of Leoben to work on his dissertation on fracture mechanics. He spent the maximum time of 13 weeks at CSC working with his host Dr. Jan Åström.

– Last year I came here to visit Jan Åström who is a collaborative doctor in my PhD. Then we found out that what Jan does is really close to what we were doing in Austria, says Iravani. This visit was very useful, and soon they found out that Armin could apply a HPCE3 grant and stay in Finland a bit longer.

Iravani's PhD is about the fragmentation of rock type materials and his work is linked to the mining industry. He is trying to understand where the fine materials after blasting come from. Does the fine material arise from crushing or crack branching or is there another reason for that?

– Most of the time, these fine materials are creating a lot of costs for the mining industry, and of course the environmental liability is also there. In EU quarries, for example, 2.5 billion tons of rock is annually blasted of which 10 – 15 % is unsellable waste fine particles. I model this rock fragmentation with the discrete element method that Jan has written by his own, Iravani explains.

– It has been really interesting to work here, especially with Jan. Everything goes smoothly and efficiently.

Coupling Elmer and OpenFOAM

Juris Vencels from University of Latvia is coupling Elmer and OpenFOAM software with MPI (message passing interface) to get the best of both worlds. He spent one month with his host Dr. Peter Råback, one of the original developers and product owner of Elmer software.

During his visit, Juris Vencels participated to advanced parallel programming course which was part of the PRACE Training Center activity. Photo: Atte Sillanpää, CSC.

Vencels' background is in magnetohydrodynamics (MHD). He is studying liquid metals and their role in controlling the electromagnetic fields and he faced problems in modelling MHD.

– It's pure multiphysics; you have electromagnetics and hydrodynamics and there is no software purely designed to model magnetohydrodynamics, Vencels explains.

His colleagues in Latvia have tried to couple a range of software in different ways to be able to model the phenomenon.  

– The idea of coupling open source software arose because there are great advantages in using open source software. There's no license fees, and therefore we can run software in bigger computers and we get better scaling than with commercial software. After considering a number of options, we decided coupling Elmer and OpenFOAM with MPI, Vencels says.

– I think it was about one year ago I started coupling Elmer and OpenFOAM and I wrote to Elmer Forum about my plan. Peter replied and we started to collaborate. Peter helped me with the Elmer part of coupling the codes, told me about the HPCE3 programme and suggested me to apply and visit CSC.

Elmer is an open source multiphysical simulation software mainly developed by CSC.

– For Elmer the MPI based software coupler with OpenFOAM opens many new possibilities. For example, the same strategies that Juris has developed for MHD enable also the study of convective heat transfer in electrical machines. Also, extension to fluid-structure interaction is possible in the future, Peter Råback says.

Juris Vencels emphasizes personal contacts and collaboration.

– In the HPCE3 context, I would advise that one should create a contact with the host first. One should have a clear idea in mind, then discuss with the host to create a detailed research plan, fill in the application and wait for positive response. I came here not that much for using resources but to work together with Peter and have help from him, Vencels explains.

– My impression of CSC is that it's great that government funds one center that helps the academia to solve their HPC problems. How it works in Latvia – there is not such a big infrastructure. Laboratories in universities have their own clusters and it's very rare to share resources.


HPC-Europa3 is a programme which allows researchers to carry out short "transnational access" visits to other countries to collaborate with a research department working in a similar field and provides access to some of the most powerful computers in Europe

There will be four calls each year and the call deadlines can be found at the HPC-Europa3 website


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