Simulations Help Raise Our Understanding; Health Wales Is Highlighting the Work of Welsh Crucible Researchers - the Cream of Welsh Research Talent. Dr Antonio Gil Explains How State-of-the-Art Computer Codes Can Be Used to Investigate Complex Engineering and Biomedical Problems

Article excerpt

I CAME to Swansea nearly 10 years ago, after graduating in Spain as a chartered civil engineer.

I've always been fascinated that mathematics, physics and computing can be harnessed to gain insight into complex phenomena in nature, so I decided to come to one of the best places in the world for this line of research - the Civil and Computational Engineering Centre in the College of Engineering at Swansea University.

Over the past 30 years the development of computational engineering research has proven so successful that it has transformed all our lives, whether we know it or not.

Computational engineering is the development and use of carefully-written computer codes to simulate the physics of a particular engineering phenomenon. This often involves very large-scale mathematics, which can only really be solved using a supercomputer.

Dr Computational engineering is now fundamental to manufacturing, the automotive and aerospace industries, design of civil engineering structures, such as bridges, dams and buildings, oil and gas pipelines, as well as the development of technology for new renewable energy sources, to name but a few.

The reason for developing computer codes for simulation, rather than, say, conducting experiments, is quite straightforward. Computer simulation of a problem can allow it to be studied in great detail, often enabling things to be learned that would not be possible through real-life experimentation.

Simulation also allows many possible scenarios to be tested very rapidly, allowing for faster development and prototyping in manufacturing.

Finally, by being able to ask "what if? …