College of Engineering News • Iowa State University

Iowa State, Ames Laboratory’s Bryden and McCorkle win R&D 100 Award

Two researchers with engineering ties have received a 2010 R&D 100 Award for developing osgBullet, a software package that creates 3-D, real-time computer simulations that can help engineers design complex systems ranging from next-generation power plants to highly efficient cars and tomorrow’s video games.

Mark Bryden, program director of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory’s Simulation, Modeling and Decision Science research program and an associate professor of mechanical engineering at Iowa State University, and Doug McCorkle, associate scientist with both Ames Laboratory and Iowa State University’s Virtual Reality Applications Center are lead scientists on the project.

Co-developers of osgBullet sharing the R&D 100 Award include the U.S. Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center, Rock Island, Ill..; U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory, Morgantown, W. Va.; the U.S. Department of Energy’s Idaho National Laboratory, Idaho Falls, Idaho; and Skew Matrix Software, Louisville, Colo.

The R&D 100 Awards, sometimes called the “Oscars of invention,” salute the 100 most technologically significant products introduced into the marketplace over the past year. The 2010 R&D 100 Award marks the 18th won by the Ames Laboratory.

“I want to congratulate all of this year’s winners on their awards and to thank them for their work,” Energy Secretary Steven Chu said. “The large number of winners from the Department of Energy’s national labs every year is a clear sign that our labs are doing some of the most innovative research in the world. This work benefits us all by enhancing America’s competitiveness, ensuring our security, providing new energy solutions, and expanding the frontiers of our knowledge. Our national labs are truly national treasures, and it is wonderful to see their work recognized once again.”

The osgBullet software tool integrates highly detailed 3-D drawings with physics engines. This enables engineering design in a real-time computed environment. According to Bryden and McCorkle, “osgBullet allows engineers to play ‘what if?’ games” during the design process – changing materials or trying different parts – all in a virtual environment, in precise detail, and very quickly.

“In the past, you had to take a computer-aided design file and simplify it by removing detail,” such as bolts in structures and other small elements of renderings, McCorkle continued, a process that might require two or three weeks of an engineering team’s time. “And that’s just for a truck design not a power plant design,” he said.

Now, osgBullet allows users to quickly insert their production CAD designs in their full complexity without having to simplify and modify the production CAD. Eventually, the goal is to enable design engineers to use the virtual world to fit together different components and incorporate the complex physics of each so that they can create a dynamic simulation of the entire system, such as the exhaust gas recirculation system of a power plant, Bryden explained. Plus, osgBullet is open-source software, which makes the tool accessible to small businesses that otherwise could not purchase costly simulation software. More than 500 users have downloaded osgBullet since its release in October 2009.

“Mark Bryden and Doug McCorkle are building up quite a record: this is the third R&D 100 Award in five years for them,” said Alex King, director of the Ames Laboratory. “Their contributions include the creation of high-capability, freely-available software like osgBullet, and they are a great example of research being performed in the public interest at DOE national labs.”

“Iowa State University’s Virtual Reality Applications Center is pleased to partner with the Ames Laboratory on this groundbreaking research,” said VRAC director Jim Oliver, director of VRAC. “Virtual engineering tools like osgBullet are a critical technology for our energy future.”

OsgBullet is available for download at Funding to support osgBullet is provided by the U.S. Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center and the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory. Winners of the R&D 100 Awards are selected by an independent judging panel and the editors of R&D Magazine. This year’s R&D 100 Award winners are listed online at The winners will also be honored at a banquet in November in Orlando, Fla.

Ames Laboratory is a U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science laboratory operated for the DOE by Iowa State University. Ames Laboratory creates innovative materials, technologies and energy solutions and uses expertise, unique capabilities and interdisciplinary collaborations to solve global challenges.

Mark Bryden, Simulation, Modeling and Decision Science, 515-294-3891
Doug McCorkle, Simulation, Modeling and Decision Science, 515-294-4938
Breehan Gerleman Lucchesi, Public Affairs, 515-294-9750