Vintage SLAC accelerator software extends its

Pioneering software called ACE3P was developed almost a quarter of a century ago to refine the design of particle accelerators and their components. Today, its latest incarnation is being adapted for scientific supercomputing and manufacturing design, thanks to partnerships between two companies and the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory.

The collaborations are part of a Department of Energy program called Small Business Innovation Research, or SBIR, which is designed to be a win-win for the lab and the community as a whole, said Matt Garrett, director of transfer of technology and private partnerships of SLAC.

“In these SBIR projects, technology developed by the labs and refined by our industrial partners is released to the community for wide use and then comes back to us to advance the facilities that are a crucial part of SLAC’s operations,” said Garrett. .

By helping companies advance their technologies and create markets, he added, the program is also creating new domestic supply chains for products whose lab – and in some cases, the wider community – need.

ACE3P was developed at SLAC about two decades ago to make virtual prototypes of particle accelerator components that will work in real life, and it is still widely used. ACE3P stands for Advanced Computational Electromagnetics 3D Parallel, reflecting the fact that it allows high-fidelity 3D simulations to run on thousands of computer processing units at once so researchers can solve large, complex problems faster. .

In recent years, ACE3P has branched out to help researchers in universities and industry perform simulations in other fields, including telecommunications and electromagnetic modeling of the human body, Cho-Kuen Ng said, senior scientist at SLAC who helped develop ACE3P.

Today, SLAC is working with two New York companies – Kitware and Simmetrix – to expand the reach of ACE3P. The goal is to make it easier for researchers to use DOE supercomputers and determine the ideal shape of accelerator components with design processes that can be applied to “just about anything”, says Simmetrix CEO Mark Beall – from airplane wings to cell phone batteries. and injection molds for toys.

Simplified Supercomputing

SLAC’s work with Kitware dates back to 2015. The company creates open-source software platforms and customizes them for the needs of specific businesses and government agencies; this last part is how he earns money on his freely available products.

In its current project with SLAC, the company is integrating one of its open source platforms, Computational Model Builder, into the ACE3P software already in place at DOE’s National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC) at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

About 8,000 DOE-funded scientists use NERSC to conduct unclassified research on a wide range of topics, including climate change, protein structure, and the evolution of the universe. But as the size and complexity of these simulations increase, they become increasingly difficult to manage.

Until recently, users had to hand-type codes – instructions for performing the simulations – while coordinating and keeping track of the project’s many intertwined threads that each produce a huge volume of data, some of which needs to be analyzed. on the spot. Organizing and managing all of this is getting more and more complicated. And the commercial interfaces that could help untangle the mess aren’t available for supercomputers, said John Tourtellott, Kitware’s principal investigator for the SLAC project.

Now that Computational Model Builder has been integrated with ACE3P, NERSC users can define the criteria for their simulations by filling out forms, dropping menus and clicking instead of typing instructions. Then they can watch the simulation play out and check the results before downloading the data to their own computer, Tourtellott said.

“While we really can’t put a number on this, it has productivity benefits,” he said. “This can significantly reduce the amount of information that needs to be entered by hand and the resulting errors. It also leaves more time for the science proper.

Kitware has also created a similar dashboard at the DOE’s Los Alamos National Laboratory for researchers who use the lab’s Truchas software platform to simulate metal casting and 3D printing.

“The reason we started this project was not so much to save users time, but because we were meeting potential new users who would look at how much work their simulation would take and say, ‘It’s not worth my time” and move on.” said Neil Carlson, a visiting scientist at Los Alamos who led the Truchas project for eight years. “Creating the new interface is really a way to lower that barrier to entry.”

Another benefit, Carlson said, is that the work Kitware did for the Los Alamos project has been integrated into Computational Model Builder, so it’s available to anyone, “and that kind of float is everyone’s boat.” world.

The shape of things to come

What Kitware does for the supercomputer user experience, Simmetrix does to automatically generate meshes that represent geometric shapes in simulations.

Mechanical engineers use a mathematical technique called finite element analysis to see how the things they design – whether it’s a small widget or a huge piece of throttle – will hold up to operating temperatures, pressures, realistic vibrations, etc. They can identify weak spots, modify the shape of components, and iterate to find the optimal design in a computer before building a prototype. ACE3P has played an important role for decades in using these types of simulations to design accelerator components.

Finite element analysis divides complex shapes into a set of much simpler shapes, represented by meshes. The computer adds up the effects of each of these simple shapes on the performance of that particular design. Finer meshes allow more detailed simulations, but require much more computation time. Coarser meshes take less time but may not be as accurate. This mesh generation process must be repeated over and over again to arrive at an optimal design.

“If this was something you had to do manually, it would be incredibly tedious and a waste of time,” says Beall, CEO of Simmetrix. The only practical solution, he said, is to do it automatically.

The SLAC researchers had developed a high-level process to predict how to modify a shape to produce a design that meets their requirements. But this process had no way of automatically predicting which shape should be tested next or automatically updating geometry and meshes for each new design. Simmetrix provided these missing pieces to create a fully automatic process for updating and optimizing shapes and their meshes with ACE3P and similar design simulation platforms, Beall said. It will allow people to design better products faster and more cheaply, and it can be applied to virtually any product, including the manufacturing process itself.

Automating this feature in ACE3P is a big win for SLAC and for the company to take everything it creates for SLAC and market it to the public.

Although the initial goal of the SLAC project is to design accelerators for science facilities that could take decades to develop, Beall said, the model could also accelerate the design of accelerator technology for processing the cancer and the design of antennas and wireless devices.

“Particle accelerators and medical devices use electromagnetic fields,” he said. “Their effectiveness and efficiency is entirely dependent on the fields they create inside, which depends on the shape of the components.

SLAC’s Ng said the SBIR project, which ended last year, improved SLAC’s process for optimizing the shape of accelerator cavities with ACE3P, allowing designers to update design parameters automatically. rather than trial and error. However, he said there is still work to be done to make the process more widely applicable for general use outside of the lab.

Beall added that elements of the work done at SLAC have been incorporated into Simmetrix products, including software the company has been selling for 25 years. “This project has allowed us to develop new capabilities that will be very useful for our customers,” he said.

Companies interested in partnering with SLAC on the SBIR program can contact Matt Garrett at [email protected] with questions. The latest round of DOE SBIR funding announcements were released last month.

ACE3P SBIR projects conducted in partnership with Kitware and Simmetrix have been supported by the DOE Office of Science. NERSC is a user facility of the DOE Office of Science.


SLAC is a dynamic, multi-program laboratory that explores how the universe works at the largest, smallest, and fastest scales and invents powerful tools used by scientists around the world. With research spanning particle physics, astrophysics and cosmology, materials, chemistry, bio and energy sciences, and scientific computing, we help solve real-world problems and advance the interests of nation.

SLAC is operated by Stanford University for U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science. The Office of Science is the largest supporter of basic physical science research in the United States and works to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time.

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