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Rick Arthur: Computing a Path to Tomorrow’s Innovations

March 15, 2023

GE Research is where the technology dreams of today shape the visionary solutions of tomorrow. A place where inventors invent and influencers influence. It’s an institution that welcomes the young and the hungry much like it does the seasoned and accomplished.

At any given time, GE Research is working dozens of projects aimed at shaping the energy transition, advancing precision health, and defining the future of flight. In the figurative sense, there are no limits to what our best and brightest can do, but realistically, limits do exist and challenging those limits is where GE thrives.

This is the space where you will find GE Research’s Rick Arthur, senior director for advanced computational methods research. Rick is a driving force behind GE’s extensive use of high-performance computing (HPC) in product development and improvement.

Simply put, HPC is a powerful technology to propel breakthrough applications of computational models and simulation toward novel discoveries and clarified understanding. HPC systems operate lightyears beyond a typical desktop computer by processing big data at extremely high speeds (read more here).

The models harnessing HPC drive ever-advancing realism, accuracy, and confidence to inform research into causes and effects as well as insight into constraints and trade-offs. (Rick explains the concept here).

At GE, HPC is a critical capability for the design, delivery, and servicing of complex machinery across industries. One example comes from GE’s collaborative work on the Revolutionary Innovation for Sustainable Engines (RISE) program, which aims to reduce aviation engine fuel consumption and CO2 emissions as a critical step toward carbon-free propulsion.

Central to the program is an advanced open fan architecture (why open fan?) and the use of hydrogen fuel. To achieve this lofty goal, GE is employing high-fidelity simulations to explore the physics in key design challenges relating to adopting hydrogen fuel for aviation (cost per kilometer, volume per joule, sufficient range/onboard capacity). 

CFM RISE - open fan, the most ambitious architecture

These simulations, such as air flow physics modeling, leverage HPC; the most advanced require supercomputer systems, such as those found at the national laboratories of the United States government. One of the important ways the national labs support industry is by enabling companies like GE to compete for access to their supercomputers. Rick has been a passionate advocate for deepening industry’s connection with the national labs and supercomputing assets to further shared goals in areas such as sustainability. 

Rick also represents GE on several government and professional community advisory councils, informing policymakers of the value and necessity of leveraging these national resources for national security and global competitiveness.

In August 2022, Rick attended the unveiling of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Frontier supercomputer at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Frontier is the first system in the world to declare exascale performance, a threshold of one quintillion (a billion billions) operations per second. This expanded capability enables deeper modeling and simulation to provide line of sight to tomorrow’s big breakthroughs (more on exascale / the road to exascale).

Shortly after Frontier’s unveiling, Rick participated in a panel presentation to Capitol Hill staffers titled “A New Frontier: Leveraging U.S. High-Performance Computing Leadership in an Exascale Era.” Hosted by the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation (ITIF), Rick joined other industry representatives and U.S. Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) in discussions about the value of exascale systems for scientific studies and in driving high-tech industry competitiveness.

rick arthur

Rick attended the Frontier supercomputer ribbon cutting at the Oak Ridge National Lab in August 2022.

Also last year, Rick joined representatives from 3M and General Motors for presentations to congressional staff on the importance of artificial intelligence in “Driving U.S. Competitiveness and Innovation: A New Era of Science for Transformative Industries.” In January 2023, the team was recognized for their collective service and contributions; presenters, including Rick, were awarded Secretary of Energy Achievement Awards, which were presented virtually by U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm and Deputy Secretary David Turk.

Moving forward, Rick has no plans to slow his engagement in HPC advocacy, which currently includes:

“To be globally competitive in today’s technology landscape requires computational modeling, simulation, and analysis,” asserts Rick, “it is simply no longer optional. This is how contemporary science and engineering are performed. National security and economic prosperity will rely upon continued public-private partnerships to advance these critical resources supporting high tech fields; from workforce development to software tools and hardware infrastructure.”

GE will continue these collaborations to build a world that works for all.