Meet the Supercomputer: An Interview with BSC

CAELESTIS’ various aims coalesce around one core factor: digital technology. Progress in computational power and precision is perhaps the enabling force this project wishes to harness to bring about a new breed of aircraft making zero carbon European aviation a reality. The Interoperable Simulation Ecosystem (ISE) comprising CAELESTIS’ most important output requires both precision and scale in its data – and lots of both. It’s up to Work Package 2 to enable this integration of simulation tools and industry-driven product optimization with the High-Performance Computing (HPC) supercomputers necessary. We’re privileged to have Spain’s leading supercomputing center on board to lead this vital WP: the Barcelona Supercomputing Center (BSC).

“The Barcelona Supercomputing Center – Centro Nacional de Supercomputación (BSC-CNS) is the leading supercomputing center in Spain,” explains Jorge Ejarque. “It houses MareNostrum, one of the most powerful supercomputers in Europe.” With a PhD in computer science, Ejarque has been working as a telecommunications engineer at BSC since 2005, today serving as a senior researcher on the Workflows and Distributed Computing team, focusing on programming models and systems for distributed computing. 

While more often than not, contemporary scientific applications require several computers simultaneously to speed up execution, the process remains a challenge for non-expert programmers. “The developer has to take care of which computations can run in parallel, manage the computation in remote computers, and deal with data transfers to ensure the computation has the required data in the computer where it is running,” says Ejarque. “In our team, we try to hide this complexity from the user.”

Image: Gerard Guillamet (left) & Jorge Ejarque (right)
at the Barcelona Supercomputing Center, November 2022 

Also a PhD, but in Advanced Composite Materials for Aeronautical Applications, Gerard Guillamet has been working at BSC since 2016. Guillamet is currently a senior researcher in the Computer Applications in Science and Engineering (CASE) department. “What fascinates me the most about the topic,” says Guillamet, “is creating our in-house numerical tools for the virtual testing of structures, which can then be executed with over a hundred thousand CPUs.” BSC’s work in areas such as this is facilitating progress in a variety of fields from under one roof, currently boasting over 770 staff from 55 countries.

As Ejarque and Guillamet make clear, the benefits of HPC are best appreciated when it comes to executing large complex computations as quickly as possible. “The computations are normally related to scientific challenges trying to model and predict natural systems,” explains Ejarque. “The main issue is that these computations do not fit in the memory of a personal computer or they could take years to be computed!” Supercomputers however, like the aforementioned MareNostrum, can be thought of as thousands of personal computers, working together in parallel via a hyper-efficient network. This parallelization is one of the key challenges being tackled by Ejarque’s team.

Video caption: Mechanical test simulation on a composite plate using Alya Multiphysics.
The test consists of a low-velocity impact event for damage resistance design.
The model uses advanced constitutive material laws from AMADE (University of Girona) for the prediction of different damage mechanisms on the material.
The model has 8M of cells and it is solved using 1200 CPUs in MareNostrum4. 

In the context of CAELESTIS, BSC is leading Work Package 2 of the project – HPC digital ecosystem and extended enterprise context – which will integrate two essential areas of the ISE. Firstly, the aim is to develop a software system that facilitates the execution of massive simulations in the HPC environment, then to integrate it seamlessly with design and manufacturing processes for aeronautical components. “To implement this system, we have to study what kind of simulations and workflows have to be performed in HPC and how the different simulations can be orchestrated and integrated with the enterprise context,” according to Ejarque. “All these interactions must be done in a cyber-secure way.” 

BSC is no stranger to innovative projects such as CAELESTIS, specifically with regard to reducing emissions contributing to a greener Europe. As Guillamet clarifies, “BSC is currently working on 56 research projects that study the impact of climate variability and change in key socioeconomic sectors such as agriculture, energy, or water management.” They’ve also garnered years of experience in similar aviation-focused projects, such as SHERLOC under the Clean Sky project, which saw the development of an advanced virtual platform for the design of a smart fuselage. SHERLOC looked out towards similar horizons to those of CAELESTIS, developing and validating modeling tools to predict residual strength and structural health monitoring in damaged regional aircraft fuselages. CAELESTIS, however, is both more specific in its focus and larger in its potential scope: “In this project, we aim to create virtual tools to improve the design of an outlet-guide-vane, which is one of the critical parts of an aircraft engine,” says Guillamet. “In this regard, the use of these tools will allow the definition of an optimized manufacturing process considering the effect of defects and the fatigue life prediction of the component.”

The results of CAELESTIS could well lead to tremendous gains towards a greener future for aviation. It’s the innovative work of partners like BSC that’s putting computer power to use and making it possible to bring lightweight, low-emissions aviation to life. Even better, they’re aiming to facilitate its arrival within three short decades.


Visit the Barcelona Supercomputing Center at to find out more about their groundbreaking work.


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