Ohio State students build supercomputer for earth science research

COLUMBUS (WCMH)—A student project usually does not require 128 circuit boards and 512 processors.

The Ohio State University earth sciences and physics students named the supercomputer Buckeye Pi: an off-the-rack materials project that cost about $7,500 to build, in a world where supercomputers usually carry a price tag in the millions of dollars.

The work began in the garage of the OSU School of Earth Sciences professor Dr. Joachim Moortgat, who supervised the project.

“Our supercomputer, Buckeye Pi, now allows us to model large, real field applications,” said Moortgat, which included carbon sequestration at a research site in southwestern Mississippi.

OSU earth sciences doctoral student Amin Amooie said his research group focuses on earth processes modeling, and ways to mitigate climate change through new carbon removal technologies by injecting excess carbon dioxide into subsurface saline aquifers.

Calculations that would take weeks to do on a traditional computer can be completed in hours, saving a great deal of time and ensuring better results.

“The goal here is to have carbon dioxide dissolve into the water so that it can stay there for many years and does not leak back to the atmosphere,” Amooie said.

The idea to build Buckeye Pi came from a United Kingdom project called Raspberry Pi, which involves small computers that are used to teach computer science in schools around the world.

The OSU students saw an opportunity to learn how to create computer code to facilitate environmental projects such as carbon capture and sequestration, which involves removing carbon dioxide from smokestacks and storing the gas or liquid safely deep underground, rather than allowing it to circulate freely in the atmosphere.

Carbon dioxide is a heat-trapping “greenhouse gas” that absorbs outgoing energy in the lower atmosphere, but is transparent to sunlight.

One of the goals behind Buckeye Pi is to teach students K-12 how to write computer code and build computers with a hands-on model and resources available to the public.

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