ANSYS’ simulation software recently took part in a galactic mission, helping to interpret weather data received from the Phoenix Mars lander by creating a virtual environment of the planet’s unique atmospheric conditions.
Via this simulation, a team at the University of Alberta was able to determine that heat and radiation from the lander itself could affect the daily weather readings, including atmospheric pressure, wind velocity and temperature. Well before the Phoenix spacecraft launch, the team developed the lander’s meteorological station (MET), which would collect key measurements that would complement other data critical to the mission. The university embraced a virtual testing process with ANSYS’ computer fluid dynamics (CFD) offering because design and calibration experiments were difficult and too expensive to perform. Based on their CFD work, the team was able to determine that under certain wind conditions, heat emitted from the spacecraft could cause a temperature sensor to show higher-than-atmospheric values. Because there’s only one shot at getting things right, the findings helped prevent any minor flaw that could have resulted in catastrophic losses for the space mission, including years of preparation and hundreds of millions of dollars.
The engineers and inventors of the post WWII period turned their attention to advancements in electronics, communication, and entertainment. Breakthrough inventions range from LEGOs and computer gaming to the integrated circuit and Ethernet -- a range of advancements that have little in common except they changed our lives.
Neil Fromer is the executive director of the Resnick Institute, a program for energy and sustainability at the California Institute of Technology, working to develop new ideas and research technologies related to providing a sustainable future. He spoke to us about the severity of the current drought in California and how solar energy can help prevent such situations in the future.
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