Bit of fowl play in the water

April 6, 2007

A complex mathematical model used to help the nuclear power industry clear radioactive sludge from the Sellafield power plant has been put to an altogether different use by enterprising physicists at Sheffield Hallam University.

Their "Thinking Water" computer simulation technology, which uses complex algorithms to simulate the flow of water, has been used to develop a new computer game featuring cartoon ducks floating in a bath.

The game, Super Rub-A-Dub , was launched this week for the sought-after Sony PS3 games console and boasts the most realistic flowing water ever seen in a game, thanks to the Materials Modelling Group at Sheffield Hallam's Materials and Engineering Research Institute.

"Much of our work involves developing computer programs that simulate how different materials behave, enabling much greater understanding of their properties," said Chris Care, who heads the group.

He said the technology had already been used in work with Rolls-Royce to see if it could help predict the flow of coolant; energy company BNFL has also used it to predict the effects of the removal of nuclear waste, stored under water at Sellafield.

"We started to think about other ways in which it could have an impact - and that's when we hit on the idea that it could bring something quite new to the games industry."

The group worked with local Sheffield games firm Sumo to produce Super Rub-A-Dub , where players have to guide a mother duck around pools of super-realistic water, with ripples and reflected light, in order to save her ducklings.

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