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Ames Laboratory Scientists Win R&D 100 Award For Virtual Engineering Software

AMES, Iowa – Two researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory and Iowa State University have won a 2009 R&D 100 Award for software that will help engineers design the next generation of highly efficient and low-emission power plants.

The software, developed by Mark Bryden, program director for Ames Laboratory’s Simulation, Modeling and Decision Science program, and Doug McCorkle, an associate scientist at Ames Lab, enables engineers to review and revise proposed designs more quickly, more efficiently and at less cost than ever before by integrating different types of engineering data into one virtual environment.

Often called the “Oscars of invention,” the R&D 100 Awards are presented annually by R&D magazine for the top 100 products of technological significance.

“The Department of Energy's national laboratories are incubators of innovation, and I'm proud they are

Virtual Engineering Software
Mark Bryden, left, and Doug McCorkle view content from VE-Suite on VRAC's 100-million pixel tiled wall. Here, the researchers are looking at computational fluid dynamics data for a vehicle model.


being recognized once again for their remarkable work,” said Energy Secretary Steven Chu.  “The cutting-edge research and development being done in our national labs is vital to maintaining America’s competitive edge, increasing our nation’s energy security, and protecting our environment.  I want to thank this year's winners for their work and congratulate them on this award. ”

This is the 17th R&D 100 Award won by Ames Laboratory scientists.  The 2009 R&D 100 Award is the second for Bryden and McCorkle, who – along with colleague Gerrick Bivens –  also won in 2006 for another virtual engineering software application.

“We are honored to have our work recognized by a 2009 R&D 100 Award,” said Bryden. “It has been exciting working with a collaborative research team to develop and bring to market new engineering tools that can help address the need for new and creative energy solutions.”

The Virtual Engineering Process Simulation Interface software application combines information about process simulation – data and models about chemical, physical and biological processes –  with computer-aided design drawings and fluid dynamics data to create a comprehensive real-time graphic display of power plant designs. In the interactive virtual environment, engineers can analyze multiple aspects of a proposed power plant at the same time with the aim of optimizing the overall system.

Virtual Powerplant

VE-PSI combines different types of engineering data to illustrate power plant designs in a virtual environment. This is a detailed look at a heat recovery steam generator.

“The goal of VE-PSI is to create an integrated engineering design environment that links together detailed models, process simulations, data and graphics,” said Bryden. “This enables the engineers to understand overall plant performance and can enable the creative what-if thinking needed to address today’s challenging energy needs.”

Bryden and McCorkle share the R&D 100 Award with Terry Jordon and Stephen E. Zitney at DOE’s National Energy Technology Laboratory and Dave Swensen and Changguan Yang at Reaction Engineering International. The project was funded by NETL.

“This award recognizes a great example of the kind of collaborative work that we do at the Ames Laboratory,” said Alex King, director of the Ames Laboratory. â€œThe VE-PSI team has brought together advanced knowledge, a vision of how to solve a real problem and the

determination to bring it to reality. The end result makes some very daunting computational problems look easy, and it will have applications that contribute to energy efficiency and carbon dioxide reduction across a huge range of different industries. We are all feeling some pride in this.”

VE-PSI is part of VE-Suite, an open-source software package developed by Bryden and his research team. VE-Suite is available for download at

Ames Laboratory is a U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science laboratory operated for the DOE by Iowa State University.  Ames Laboratory creates innovative materials, technologies and energy solutions. We use our expertise, unique capabilities and interdisciplinary collaborations to solve global challenges.