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More Than a Supercomputer
March 31, 2015   
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Work to build a powerful digital machine to analyze a variety of chemical processes is in progress at Technopark £ód¼ in central Poland.

Work to build a powerful digital machine to analyze a variety of chemical processes is in progress at Technopark £ód¼ in central Poland.

The machine, known as the Analyzer of Real Complex Systems (ARUZ), will make it possible to shorten time spent on research and accelerate problem solving in many industries.

In order to create a new material with unusual properties, scientists must design the material’s macroparticles and model complex reactions. Thanks to the new system, complicated calculations will take a few days instead of many months.

The ARUZ Analyzer of Real Complex Systems will make it possible to examine phenomena that until now defied observation in a laboratory. Researchers will be able to analyze more than 1 million molecules at a time and examine the nature of complex phenomena in areas ranging from environmental protection to pharmacology, aviation and aerospace. The Analyzer will come in handy in the study of chemicals—simulations with the use of the Analyzer will replace laboratory tests.

How do you obtain a smart fabric that does not absorb water or can protect the wearer against radiation? Or a transparent material that exhibits electrical conductivity? All this requires properly designed macromolecules, usually polymers. And the ARUZ will make it easier to model the polymerization reaction involved.

“In a real complex system there are molecules of different shapes and sizes, such as polymer molecules, liquids of low molecular weight, and so on,” says Krzysztof Ha³agan, Ph.D., from the £ód¼ University of Technology. Such a system has a complicated structure, while modeling work requires simplification. Special equipment is needed for analysis while maintaining a high level of complexity. For example, plastics used today in every area of life consist of polymers with very long chains. They are researched using experimental methods. First chemists conduct synthesis in various conditions, selecting them in such a way that the final product meets specific requirements. Then they check if the product indeed has such properties. Each stage of such research is complicated, takes time and costs money. The ARUZ promises to give scientists a wealth of information before they begin laboratory tests.

The new system will first be used in the chemical industry. Then it will be gradually applied to solve problems in other sectors such as food, pharmaceuticals, aviation, the military and the IT sector.

The system will benefit industries such as cosmetology, pharmacology and environmental protection. In these industries research on the flow of substances through cell membranes as well as porous materials can be conducted—for example checking how cosmetics penetrate the skin. And also how contaminated water or dangerous contaminants penetrate the soil. Using the Analyzer, a porous system can be modeled.

The food industry will be able to test packaging resistant to interaction with products. Thanks to this, substances from the packaging will not soak into the food.

The aerospace industry will be able to use the ARUZ to analyze fuel mixtures or the behavior of exhaust gases in engines. IT professionals will be able to use it to analyze the distribution of loads in extended communications networks, for example.

According to Ha³agan, the system will also benefit researchers in the humanities. Sociologists will be able to use it to analyze the behavior of society and the reactions of social groups to certain external factors. Thanks to this, experts will be able to predict how people will cope during an evacuation operation from a building that has a certain number of exits with specific width. These are phenomena where the behavior of one element depends on other elements.

In the longer term the ARUZ will also come in handy for defense experts. They will be able to, for example, analyze how shock waves spread after an explosion in a confined space, such as a city with a complicated pattern of streets and buildings. Military experts are interested, for example, in the spread of shock waves after a detonation.

The ARUZ is the brainchild of scientists from the £ód¼ University of Technology. Rafa³ Kie³bik, Ph.D., a scientific consultant for the project, says, “The device is in the form of a cylinder with a width of around 4 meters and a diameter of 14 meters. It will be made up of 20 panels, with about 25,000 FPGA (Field-Programmable Gate Array) integrated circuits, connected with one another by means of wires with a total length of almost 100,000 meters and weighing 6 tons. A Field-Programmable Gate Array (FPGA) is an integrated circuit designed to be configured by a customer or a designer after manufacturing.

Depending on the challenge at hand, those operating the Analyzer will be able to change the logical structure inside each FPGA circuit, connected into a dense three-dimensional network. The machine works in a such way that logic operations are performed in all FPGA circuits simultaneously. This type of work is very effective, according to Kie³bik.

Although the ARUZ is designed to perform very advanced calculations and simulations, it is not a supercomputer per se. It is a collection of interconnected FPGA processors that are different from ordinary processors in that they can be fully reconfigured.

A typical supercomputer has a fixed structure. During research it is necessary to enter an appropriate program and try to simulate the behavior of the studied system. The ARUZ can be rebuilt anew every time researchers want to use it to solve a specific problem. In other words, it is possible to adjust the machine to the specific nature of the issues that it is expected to deal with.

The ARUZ is part of the BioNanoPark+ project. It will be built at a cost of zl.20 million. The entire project involves expanding the scientific base of the BioNanoPark in £ód¼ and is worth about zl.90 million. The BioNanoPark+ budget has been 85 percent covered by the European Union under its Innovative Economy Operational Programme. The co-financing has been granted through the Polish Agency for Enterprise Development. £ód¼ City Hall and the authorities of £ód¼ province have contributed the rest of the money.

Technopark£ód¼ will house six BioNanoPark+ research laboratories. The construction project is due to be completed in June this year.

The ARUZ will be housed in the Laboratory of Molecular Simulations.

The Nanomaterial Structural Research Laboratory will be equipped with modern apparatus for studying the structure and properties of materials on the atomic scale. Researchers and entrepreneurs will have a modern transmission electron microscope at their disposal, among other devices.

The Customized Medicine Laboratory, run by the Medical University of £ód¼, will select forms of treatment tailored to the needs of specific patients or groups of patients. The laboratory will also specialize in developing modern implants and prostheses.

The Product Authentication Laboratory will be equipped with a sensitive NMR spectrometer that will make it possible to accurately determine if the ingredients of food products are indeed those given on the packaging.

The Laboratory of Biosensors and Organic Electronics will house a cleanroom, or a room with a very high degree of purity, as well as a set of gloveboxes without oxygen where it will be possible to produce organic field-effect transistors and diodes built not from silicon but from semiconductor organic compounds. A glovebox is a sealed container that is designed to allow manipulation of objects where a separate atmosphere is desired. Built into the sides of the glovebox are gloves arranged in such a way that the user can place their hands into the gloves and perform tasks inside the box without breaking containment. Meanwhile, organic field-effect transistors are a new class of electro-optical devices that could provide a novel architecture to address open questions concerning charge-carrier recombination and light emission in organic materials. These devices have potential applications in optical communication systems, advanced display technology, solid-state lighting and electrically pumped organic lasers. OLED displays, for example, are made using such technology.

In the Biotechnology Laboratory, scientists will be able to sequence the DNA and examine proteins. This lab will be also equipped with specialized equipment for cell cultures.

Karolina Olszewska


Factfile

The BioNanoPark, currently under expansion as part of the BioNanoPark+ project, is one of Poland’s largest complexes of bio- and nano-technology laboratories that operate out of the Regional Science and Technology Park in the central city of £ód¼ (Technopark £ód¼).

Bio- and nano-technologies are among the fastest developing disciplines of science in Poland. Companies based at Technopark £ód¼ have a number of innovations to their name, including special car seats for children with cerebral palsy and electronic city guides for mobile phones available in several languages.

The BioNanoPark aims to help university graduates with a business idea to put it into practice.

The BioNanoPark complex is home to modern, specialized industrial biotechnology laboratories and molecular and nano-structural biophysics laboratories. These provide services to industry and research institutions in both Poland and abroad.

Phase one of the Bio-NanoPark cost more than zl.76 million to build and equip, with over zl.53 million coming from an EU grant under the Innovative Economy Operational Programme. Almost half of these funds were spent on laboratory equipment. The complex went into operation in the fourth quarter of 2012.
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