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September 27, 2011
Cheryl Reitan | Interim director | UMD Public Relations and Marketing | 218 726-8996 | creitan@d.umn.edu
Peter Willemsen | Associate professor | UMD Department of Computer Science | 218 726-6228 | willemsn@d.umn.edu


NSF Collaborative Research Grant

Image depicting the proportion of direct shortwave radiation from the sun in a test case with four buildings.  Computations are performed in near real-time using the graphics card's processing capabilities.Image depicting the proportion of direct shortwave radiation from the sun in a test case with four buildings. Computations are performed in near real-time using the graphics card's processing capabilities.
Peter Willemsen, University of Minnesota Duluth associate professor in the department of computer science, has been awarded a collaborative research grant from the National Science Foundation. The total award is approximately one million dollars over three years with NSF awarding $241,482 to Willemsen to work on computational strategies to simulate how urban layout and structure impacts pollution dispersion and energy usage.

Willemsen's lab will support the development of GPU-based environmental simulation software while also utilizing the lab's interactive and immersive virtual environment capabilities. GPU-based computing uses the video graphics card for general computation to allow some types of problems to be solved much more quickly. Because the simulation data and computations reside on the graphics card, users can interact with and visually explore the simulations and associated data in real-time. These types of interactions have potential to provide additional understanding along with refinement of the physical models associated with transport and dispersion in an urban setting.

The collaborative project includes colleagues from the University of Utah's Mechanical Engineering and Atmospheric Sciences Departments: Drs. Pardyiak, Harman, Steenburgh, and Stoll.

"It's an exciting project," said Willemsen. "Our team's efforts are to provide understanding for how urban structure, such as parks or other green spaces affect the local urban microclimate. In other words, when you add a park or a landscaped rooftop to an urban space, how is the surrounding urban environment affected? Does the green space really mitigate pollution emissions and reduce overall energy use? We are working to simulate these interactions at multiple scales to understand the bigger picture."

The team's primary work is large-scale simulations investigating the impact of green infrastructure on urban energy use and microclimate. The interdisciplinary team will utilize a suite of computationally based strategies to bridge simulation scales and improve understanding of how green infrastructure interacts with the urban environment at local (neighborhood), city, and meso-scales.

Through the use of the grant's simulation models and tools, engineers, atmospheric scientists, and urban planners will gain knowledge to address sustainability and urban microclimate prediction issues associated with new and existing green infrastructure, which has the potential to impact the quality of life for the millions of people who live in urban areas.

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