From The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne [EPFL-École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne] (CH): “EPFL scientists take modeling to new heights”

From The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne [EPFL-École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne] (CH)

Florent Hiard
Sandy Evangelista

EPFL’s Platform of Hydraulic Constructions has been commissioned to model a future hydropower plant in Australia. As part of its work, the team has built an outsize replica on campus.

Snowy 2.0

In the modeling world, 1:25 is an extremely useful scale factor. It’s what lets you display your favorite toy cars or tin soldiers in your living-room window. And importantly, it’s how engineers at EPFL’s Platform of Hydraulic Constructions (PL-LCH) scale down life-size structures to models that can fit inside a building on the Lausanne campus.

If you wanted to view their latest model from above, however, you’d need a ladder. That’s because the PL-LCH team is working on Snowy 2.0, a major hydropower project in Australia in which two reservoirs south of Canberra – Tantangara and Talbingo – are connected via a 27-kilometer-long tunnel complete with turbines and a pumping station. The power plant itself, located inside the tunnel, will provide 2,000 megawatts of generating capacity and 350,000 megawatt-hours of storage capacity. “That’s 17 times the storage capacity of the Nant de Drance hydropower plant in Valais,” says Azin Amini, who heads technology transfer at PL-LCH.

2009 Graeme Bartlett/Wikimedia commons – Tantangara Reservoir in Canberra Australia.

The model, housed inside the PL-LCH’s building on campus, replicates the tunnel heads at the two reservoirs and the surrounding topography. Measuring around four by six meters each and standing side by side, they’re connected by pipes that simulate the flow of liquid between the two bodies of water. According to Mona Seyfeddine, a civil engineer at PL-LCH, the team uses the structure to study the flow regimes and other water movements that occur when the reservoirs are filled and when the pumping system is activated.

2022 EPFL/Alain Herzog (CC-BY SA 4.0) / Models of the two reservoirs of Tantangara and Talbingo.

With 3D modeling becoming increasingly common, is there really any justification for building a concrete replica on this scale? For Amini, this is a false dichotomy, because the two techniques complement one another. “We’ve opted for a hybrid approach that combines digital and physical modeling,” she explains. “Digital models are faster and, in most cases, cheaper to develop. In this case, the digital model is helpful in the early stages of a project, allowing us to assess the general behavior of the structure and prove the concept before we go ahead and build the physical replica.” Amini adds that the physical version is essential given the complexity of the water flow regimes, enabling the team to fine-tune and finalize the design while optimizing the digital model.

2022 EPFL/Alain Herzog (CC-BY SA 4.0) / Hybrid work of the laboratory on numerical and physical models.

In reality, this replica is just the start of the EPFL lab’s involvement in Australia’s Snowy 2.0 project – the team will be modeling other parts of the structure in the coming months. Amini notes: “The fact that we were chosen to work on this project shows that our expertise is recognized around the world.”

See the full article here .


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The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne [EPFL-École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne] (CH) is a research institute and university in Lausanne, Switzerland, that specializes in natural sciences and engineering. It is one of the two Swiss Federal Institutes of Technology, and it has three main missions: education, research and technology transfer.

The QS World University Rankings ranks EPFL(CH) 14th in the world across all fields in their 2020/2021 ranking, whereas Times Higher Education World University Rankings ranks EPFL(CH) as the world’s 19th best school for Engineering and Technology in 2020.

EPFL(CH) is located in the French-speaking part of Switzerland; the sister institution in the German-speaking part of Switzerland is The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology ETH Zürich [Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich] (CH). Associated with several specialized research institutes, the two universities form The Domain of the Swiss Federal Institutes of Technology (ETH Domain) [ETH-Bereich; Domaine des Écoles Polytechniques Fédérales] (CH) which is directly dependent on the Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research. In connection with research and teaching activities, EPFL(CH) operates a nuclear reactor CROCUS; a Tokamak Fusion reactor; a Blue Gene/Q Supercomputer; and P3 bio-hazard facilities.

ETH Zürich, EPFL (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne) [École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne](CH), and four associated research institutes form The Domain of the Swiss Federal Institutes of Technology (ETH Domain) [ETH-Bereich; Domaine des Écoles polytechniques fédérales] (CH) with the aim of collaborating on scientific projects.

The roots of modern-day EPFL(CH) can be traced back to the foundation of a private school under the name École Spéciale de Lausanne in 1853 at the initiative of Lois Rivier, a graduate of the École Centrale Paris (FR) and John Gay the then professor and rector of the Académie de Lausanne. At its inception it had only 11 students and the offices were located at Rue du Valentin in Lausanne. In 1869, it became the technical department of the public Académie de Lausanne. When the Académie was reorganized and acquired the status of a university in 1890, the technical faculty changed its name to École d’Ingénieurs de l’Université de Lausanne. In 1946, it was renamed the École polytechnique de l’Université de Lausanne (EPUL). In 1969, the EPUL was separated from the rest of the University of Lausanne and became a federal institute under its current name. EPFL(CH), like ETH Zürich (CH), is thus directly controlled by the Swiss federal government. In contrast, all other universities in Switzerland are controlled by their respective cantonal governments. Following the nomination of Patrick Aebischer as president in 2000, EPFL(CH) has started to develop into the field of life sciences. It absorbed the Swiss Institute for Experimental Cancer Research (ISREC) in 2008.

In 1946, there were 360 students. In 1969, EPFL(CH) had 1,400 students and 55 professors. In the past two decades the university has grown rapidly and as of 2012 roughly 14,000 people study or work on campus, about 9,300 of these being Bachelor, Master or PhD students. The environment at modern day EPFL(CH) is highly international with the school attracting students and researchers from all over the world. More than 125 countries are represented on the campus and the university has two official languages, French and English.


EPFL is organized into eight schools, themselves formed of institutes that group research units (laboratories or chairs) around common themes:

School of Basic Sciences
Institute of Mathematics
Institute of Chemical Sciences and Engineering
Institute of Physics
European Centre of Atomic and Molecular Computations
Bernoulli Center
Biomedical Imaging Research Center
Interdisciplinary Center for Electron Microscopy
MPG-EPFL Centre for Molecular Nanosciences and Technology
Swiss Plasma Center
Laboratory of Astrophysics

School of Engineering

Institute of Electrical Engineering
Institute of Mechanical Engineering
Institute of Materials
Institute of Microengineering
Institute of Bioengineering

School of Architecture, Civil and Environmental Engineering

Institute of Architecture
Civil Engineering Institute
Institute of Urban and Regional Sciences
Environmental Engineering Institute

School of Computer and Communication Sciences

Algorithms & Theoretical Computer Science
Artificial Intelligence & Machine Learning
Computational Biology
Computer Architecture & Integrated Systems
Data Management & Information Retrieval
Graphics & Vision
Human-Computer Interaction
Information & Communication Theory
Programming Languages & Formal Methods
Security & Cryptography
Signal & Image Processing

School of Life Sciences

Bachelor-Master Teaching Section in Life Sciences and Technologies
Brain Mind Institute
Institute of Bioengineering
Swiss Institute for Experimental Cancer Research
Global Health Institute
Ten Technology Platforms & Core Facilities (PTECH)
Center for Phenogenomics
NCCR Synaptic Bases of Mental Diseases

College of Management of Technology

Swiss Finance Institute at EPFL
Section of Management of Technology and Entrepreneurship
Institute of Technology and Public Policy
Institute of Management of Technology and Entrepreneurship
Section of Financial Engineering

College of Humanities

Human and social sciences teaching program

EPFL Middle East

Section of Energy Management and Sustainability

In addition to the eight schools there are seven closely related institutions

Swiss Cancer Centre
Center for Biomedical Imaging (CIBM)
Centre for Advanced Modelling Science (CADMOS)
École Cantonale d’art de Lausanne (ECAL)
Campus Biotech
Wyss Center for Bio- and Neuro-engineering
Swiss National Supercomputing Centre