HPC Wales will help the magic of mirrors in North Wales
It may be all about mirrors, but there’s no trickery involved in Professor David Walker’s hugely ambitious bid to bring new business and employment to North Wales.
Prof Walker is an expert in Ultra-Precision Optical Polishing Technology and is based at OpTIC Glyndwr business innovation centre in St. Asaph.
He is working on developing state-of-the-art mirrors for the European Southern Observatory, which will be the biggest optical telescope in the world.
And a key plank of his work will be provided by the HPC Wales high performance computer.
“The mirrors project alone is worth 200 million Euros and what we want to do is attract that investment, or a significant part of it to North Wales,” said Prof Walker.
“I moved from the University of London to the business park here at OpTIC in order to do just that - create a business and create employment for North Wales.
“And it is not just about mirrors because there is a whole food chain of a supply and service network that can be built up around the business.”
Prof Walker is excited about the opportunities which will be provided when the HPC Wales super computer comes on line.
“Our project involves helping to build the world’s largest telescope in Chile. It will be used for looking for earth-like planets around other stars. For the very first time we will be able to get a good look at galaxies created immediately after the Big Bang.
“In scale the telescope project is huge – a total of 1128 mirrors. Each is about 1.4 metres across. They will be hexagons and tiled like tiling a bathroom wall.
“In order to produce these mirrors we need to develop a whole new way of thinking.
“The French have done this sort of work before, but that involved just 36 segments in a telescope. We are talking 1000-plus.
“We have to come up with a new and very innovative process to produce these mirrors.
“We have a pilot facility, but we are coming up against what will be a yawning gulf between a pilot plant and our bid to build a mass production plant.
“There are a number of issues in that transition one of those issues is the whole software infrastructure for this work.
“We have huge computational tasks to be completed and this is where a computer like HPC Wales will help us achieve our objectives.”
Prof Walker added: “It is also important that we are not just talking about ground-based astronomy here.
“Mirrors also have applications in space looking up at the universe, and down at the earth for disaster monitoring, earth resources etc. They will also be needed for high-power laser-fusion systems for green energy production.
“There are crucial developments in the field of producing unlimited safe energy through laser-fusion - a field which is hugely important to all of us.”
Prof David Walker’s Ultra-Precision Optical Polishing Technology is based at OpTIC Glyndwr, St. Asaph, North Wales.
The OpTIC business incubation centre is located at the gateway to the St Asaph Business Park.