Jack Halow puts it, "A picture may be worth a thousand words, but a virtual
environment visualization is worth a million numbers." Halow, director of
the Simulation and Multi-phase Flow Analysis Division at DOE’s
National Energy Technology
Laboratory, is excited about the completion of the lab’s four-surface,
virtual environment (VE) center: technology that immerses researchers in a
synthetic environment generated with digital data from the lab’s science and
engineering research efforts.
it’s fully functional, we’ll move beyond our current visualization
capabilities and into the world of virtual reality. We will not only see the
data, but we’ll hear it and interact with it in very natural, multi-sensory
ways," Halow said.
In collaboration with
Ames Laboratory, NETL
is developing the
CAVE-like facility into a science laboratory and engineering design
center for the fossil-fueled energy plants of the future. And that future is
closer than most people think. DOE program plans call for the first of the
near-zero-emissions Vision 21 power plants to come on-line in about
Just as virtual design technologies brought
the Boeing-777 to market in the mid-1990s and continue to bring new
automotive designs to market in record cycle times, the NETL VE center will
play an important role in finding science, engineering and design solutions
critical to Vision 21 plant development.
The new plants will incorporate technology
systems only now being developed. NETL will have the capability to predict
dynamic responses of entire energy systems such as hybrid generating systems
that use fuel cells in combination with advanced gas turbines, and coal
gasification systems that incorporate processes to separate and sequester
the greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide.
"At millions of dollars a pop, we can’t build
and test these technologies in the real world until we’re pretty sure we’ve
got a winner. Problem solving in the virtual world is much cheaper – and
faster," said Halow.