Dr Huang, a chemistry lecturer at the University of Adelaide, is a ‘computational scientist’ who works with computer models and algorithms to explore and describe physical systems.
He has been using eResearch SA’s high-performance computing capabilities since he took up his position two years ago.
“Our work involves exploring complex and often novel relationships, such as the dynamics of fluids flowing through a carbon nanotube or how protein molecules aggregate and the impact of those aggregations,” Dr Huang said.
“Computer power is critical in running the often highly complex models we create and analysing the masses of data generated from that exercise.
“We use eResearch SA’s high performance computing facilities for the heavy-duty number crunching involved in simulations and data analysis.”
A theoretical chemist with a particular interest in nano technology, Dr Huang uses a variety of computational methods to study issues relating to photovoltaics and movement of fluids through porous materials.
“Improving the efficiency of photovoltaic cells that use plastic instead of silicon would open the way to generate cheaper solar energy from almost any surface that could be coated with a plastic film,” he said.
“This technology has the potential to make every window in a home or commercial building an electrical generator.”
Dr Huang is also working on nano-scale energy-storing technologies including electro-chemical capacitors, a field that may prove relevant to larger-scale storage systems that will improve the efficiency of electric vehicles and wind and solar power.
“Our challenge is to predict and explore physical relationships and interactions,” he said.
“Experiments often can’t access detail of what is happening at the molecular scale, so researchers have to rely on ‘indirect’ results inferred from what can be observed. Computations can provide molecular-scale insight into experimental results and help guide future experiments.
“Having access to the eResearch SA’s supercomputers has made our work easier and faster.
“The computational work is done remotely but is initiated from our location. We simply submit the data from our computers and, when the necessary computer capacity is available, the calculations are run.
“We can monitor the process from our computers and can access the data generated at any time.”
While he has so far made greatest use of eResearch SA’s older supercomputer, Dr Huang is looking forward to using the super-powerful graphic processing units (GPUs) in eResearch SA’s new supercomputer, the Tizard machine.
“These GPUs were developed for high-level computer game and film animation but have been adapted to undertake complex, high-volume scientific calculations that can be applied to our research.
“We hope to use the Tizard machine for future research such as exploring the behaviour of very large molecular systems,” Dr Huang said.