H2OPE for a decarbonized future

The Atos – Joseph Fourier Prize is an annual competition for scientists across the globe, applying individually or in teams to their local Fourier competitions. It aims to reward the work of researchers, academics and industrial scientists in advanced computing and artificial intelligence with a focus on decarbonization.

In 2021, the top prize was awarded to the H2OPE team from CERFACS in Toulouse, France for its project to develop safer, cleaner gas turbine engines.

Addressing a burning need

Today, global warming and climate change are major environmental issues, and we need to adapt rapidly to reduce our carbon footprint. Developing renewable energies and green transportation technologies is, of course, essential in this context, but the reality is that we will continue to rely on combustion for some time.

Therefore, there is a real need to find solutions that can lead to green combustion. Hydrogen is a clear candidate to replace carbon-based fuels like natural gas or kerosene and help meet the EU’s 2050 net-zero carbon emissions target. Hydrogen produces no CO2 when burned and — when mixed with traditional fossil fuels — helps stabilize leaner and greener flames. However, by completely or partially replacing standard hydrocarbons with hydrogen (also called H2 enrichment), the result is a modified flame shape which may induce unsteady dynamics leading to flashback, blowout, or flame instabilities. This raises numerous concerns regarding reliability, efficiency, and safety. The main objective of the H2OPE team was to employ advanced computing tools to design safe, workable combustors for aeronautical and energy applications, and to reduce the number of expensive test benches needed for engine development.

About the H2OPE project

Since hydrogen has properties unlike traditional fuels, new tools must be developed and tested. The CERFACS team’s research is intended to use high-fidelity computer simulations to overcome the challenges related to hydrogen flames. The team’s goal was to model, at high resolution, a bi-fuel combustion process that mixes conventional fuels and hydrogen. The project addressed these problems using high performance computing (HPC) to conduct high-fidelity large eddy simulations (LES). First, the team modeled bi-fuel chemical kinetics, complex transport properties and explored the challenges of understanding the complex structure of methane/hydrogen flames at different pressures. Then, they examined the impact of hydrogen injection on mechanisms responsible for thermoacoustic instabilities, i.e., unsteady oscillations of the flame which may lead to catastrophic consequences on engine as premature system failure or explosion.

The research currently underway by the CERFACS team will contribute to the transition toward a decarbonized future.

On the basis of their research, a jury of distinguished scientists and business leaders awarded the H2OPE project first place in the Atos – Joseph Fourier Prize 2021.

Analysis and simulations powered by HPC are fundamental to gaining the insights that will shape our collective future. Thanks to the team’s contributions to developing high-fidelity simulations to solve complex engineering challenges like this, we are all one step closer to making cleaner, highly reliable new combustion systems a reality.

Thanks to the H2OPE team’s project, we are all one step closer to making cleaner, highly reliable new combustion systems a reality.

The future of H2OPE

On the road to decarbonization, we must overcome the technological limits of existing combustion designs. We need airplanes that fly on hydrogen, and the team’s next step will be to study pure hydrogen flame configurations — which present even greater technological and modeling challenges. The use of high-fidelity simulations is essential to analyze these complex flames unveiling their properties and critical issues, as the emission of other pollutants than CO2, namely NOx and contrails. HPC simulations will be a fundamental tool to design the green engines of the future.


(Left to right) Davide Laera, Walter Agostinelli, Laurent Gicquel

Davide Laera, Senior Resercher, PhD

Dr. Davide Laera received his PhD in Mechanical engineering in 2016 from the Politecnico di Bari (Bari, Italy). Member of Cerfacs since 2018, he is actively involved in developing advanced and massively parallel softwares for high-fidelity LES of turbulent reacting flows with a focus on: decarbonized combustion (hydrogen and ammonia), two-phase flame, pressure gain combustion (CVC and RDE) and thermoacoustic instabilities. He has authored more than 20 papers in refereed journals and supervises the research activities of several interns and PhD students.

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Walter Agostinelli, Aerospace Engineer, PhD Candidate

Walter is a PhD candidate based in Toulouse for Safran Helicopter Engines and CERFACS in the MAGISTER ITN European project, aiming at reducing pollutant emissions by the aviation sector. In the last years, he focused on the prediction of engine operability when dealing with innovative technologies, covering the cases of different fuel compositions like hydrogen, as well as a new combustor geometry such as the Spinning Combustion Technology. Walter also obtained the Space Engineering MSc from Politecnico di Milano and Politecnico di Torino as well as the Management diploma from Alta Scuola Politecnica.

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Laurent GICQUEL, CFD research scientist, Co-project leader of CERFACS’ CFD team

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About Xavier Vigouroux
Strategic Collaboration Coordinator, Global Big Data and Security, Atos
After a Ph.D. from Ecole normale supérieure de Lyon in distributed computing, Dr Xavier Vigoroux, worked for major companies at different positions: from support engineer in telecom infrastructure at Hewlett-Packard, tech lead at Sun microsystems, investigator at Sun labs, ... He joined Bull in 2006 and led the HPC benchmarking team for the first five years, then in charge of the "Education and Research" market for HPC, he launched and managed the "Center for Excellence in Parallel Programming" of Bull. This CEPP activities focus on tackling issues in HPC application performance. For two years, he had the position of program director for a research center in artificial intelligence, Naver labs Europe, and is now coordinating the strategic collaborations for HPC AI and Quantum in Bull/Atos.