Super computer to crunch nanocellulose data

The New Zealand e-Science Infrastructure (NeSI) has granted Scion scientist Dr Stefan Hill access to its supercomputers to model cellulose nanocrystal x-ray diffraction patterns. The national computing research infrastructure's high performance computers allow researchers to tackle complex research questions. This resource is open to all universities and CRIs in New Zealand.

Equations that describe how x-rays interact with atoms work well for simple materials, but they do not work well when applied to nanocellulose. Nanocellulose is the crystalline form of cellulose – a major component of wood. One approach is to model as many combinations of nanocellulose structures as possible and to match these computer models with the Synchrotron X-ray experimental data. This task is beyond the ability of any computer at Scion.

"I would need to run this problem on my desktop computer all day and night for two or three years just to get an answer,” says Stefan. “The high performance computing facility at NeSI will give us an answer in just days." This new information will provide insights into cellulose synthesis in woody plants and impact on the use of woody plants for biofuels.