Virtual Innovation

Excerpt from article published in the Purdue Office of the Vice President for Research Annual Report 2011-2012

Imagine traveling through a blast furnace, watching as iron ore and coke descend through its chambers toward the bottom where pure molten iron collects. The 1600-degree temperatures obviously make that impossible, but it is possible to take a virtual tour, thanks to Chenn Zhou and her colleagues.

Zhou heads up Purdue Calumet’s Center for Innovation through Visualization and Simulation, where students and faculty members combine advanced simulation techniques, 3-D visualization and virtual reality technologies to solve many different university research problems, industry issues and community problems, as well as offering new possibilities for education and training.

The 3-D immersive virtual blast furnace model, for example—which was created using computational fluid dynamics principles with support from the American Iron and Steel Institute and a Department of Energy research grant—has been used by steel companies for not only training but also energy savings and efficiencies. By visualizing how conditions and settings affect output, engineers can test out new ideas before making operational changes that help to save time and capital.

Since its inception, in fact, the center has helped more than 50 organizations save tens of millions of dollars collectively. Corporations like ArcelorMittal, BP, NiSource and U.S. Steel are taking advantage of this new technology. “We have facilities, software and talented faculty and students dedicated to improving the environment, energy efficiency, product quality and productivity,” says Zhou. “Our close partnerships with industries and community have enabled us to provide costeffective solutions for real-world problems.”

Dr. Chenn Zhou demonstrating a 3D simulation and pointing to an object on the screen.