UKAEA will develop a fusion energy plant in the metaverse

UKAEA will develop a fusion energy plant in the metaverse Ryan is a senior editor at TechForge Media with over a decade of experience covering the latest technology and interviewing leading industry figures. He can often be sighted at tech conferences with a strong coffee in one hand and a laptop in the other. If it's geeky, he’s probably into it. Find him on Twitter (@Gadget_Ry) or Mastodon (@gadgetry@techhub.social)


The industrial metaverse is set to revolutionise the development of the UK Atomic Energy Authority’s prototype fusion energy plant, STEP, located in Nottinghamshire.

The immersive and connected virtual environment will serve as the digital realm where engineers and scientists will collaborate to design and refine the plant’s engineering blueprint.

In partnership with Dell Technologies, Intel, and the University of Cambridge, UKAEA aims to leverage the power of supercomputers capable of performing up to one quintillion calculations per second, along with advanced AI technologies, to create a digital twin of the STEP design. This digital replica will allow for comprehensive testing, analysis, and optimisation of the plant’s various components and systems.

Dr Paul Calleja, Director of Research Computing Services at the University of Cambridge, said: 

“UKAEA’s moon-shot mission to put clean fusion energy on the UK grid in the 2040s is a hugely ambitious goal, needing equally ambitious advanced computing and AI technologies to fuel the virtual engineering effort to create a complete digital reality of the power plant that can be developed and tested in silicon, which greatly accelerates the process.

To this end the Cambridge Open ZettaScale Lab in partnership with Intel, Dell, UKAEA and a team of HPC experts from across UKRI have been working together for the past two years on a world-leading co-design activity called Project Dawn to design and prototype a candidate UK exascale class converged AI and simulation GPU/CPU supercomputer, with the computation power capable of helping UKAEA meet it its vast computational requirements.

Project Dawn is closely aligned with the recommendations of the recent UK ‘Future of Compute Review’ which is targeting over a billion pounds investment to develop the UK AI and exascale computing ecosystem.”

The concept of the industrial metaverse goes beyond traditional computer-aided design (CAD) systems. It offers a fully interactive and immersive experience that enables multidisciplinary teams to work together seamlessly, transcending geographical boundaries.

Engineers and scientists will be able to visualise the fusion energy plant in three-dimensional space, explore its intricate details, and simulate its behaviour under different operating conditions.

By harnessing the capabilities of the industrial metaverse, UKAEA aims to ensure ecosystem readiness and cost-effectiveness while paving the way for STEP’s successful integration into the national grid by the 2040s. The virtual environment enables rigorous testing and validation, minimising risks associated with physical prototyping and construction.

Exascale computing, the pinnacle of computational power, plays a vital role in the industrial metaverse. This next-generation technology provides unprecedented computational resources, allowing for complex simulations, advanced analytics, and predictive modelling. It enables engineers to study the behaviour of the fusion reactions, the behaviour of plasma, and the overall performance of the plant in extreme conditions. Such detailed analysis is crucial for developing robust and efficient designs.

The collaboration between UKAEA, Dell Technologies, Intel, and the University of Cambridge exemplifies the convergence of cutting-edge technologies required for the success of the industrial metaverse.

By integrating supercomputing power, AI algorithms, and advanced software solutions, the partners aim to democratise access to high-performance computing, making it practical and vendor-agnostic.

The industrial metaverse’s transformative potential extends beyond fusion energy. It represents a paradigm shift in the way industries approach design, engineering, and manufacturing processes. By leveraging virtual environments, companies can accelerate product development, reduce costs, and minimise environmental impact.

The application of the industrial metaverse extends to various sectors, such as aerospace, automotive, architecture, and healthcare. It enables real-time collaboration, iterative design improvements, and comprehensive testing of complex systems. The virtual environment facilitates the identification of design flaws, optimisation of performance, and enhancement of overall product quality.

The industrial metaverse represents a new frontier in design and engineering, offering a transformative approach to product development across various industries.

(Image Credit: UKAEA)

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