LARGEST UNCLASSIFIED SUPERCOMPUTER GOES ONLINE:
Scientists Already Report Significant Results
|Contact: Jon Bashor, (510) 486-5849, [email protected]|
BERKELEY, CA — Scientists at universities and national laboratories across the country are now tapping into the power of the world's largest supercomputer dedicated to unclassified research and have reported important breakthroughs in climate research, materials science and astrophysics.
The U.S. Department of Energy's National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC), operated by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, has opened its newest supercomputer -- a 3,328-processor IBM RS/6000 SP system -- to more than 2,000 researchers at national laboratories and universities across the country. The IBM SP, named "Seaborg" in honor of Berkeley Lab Nobel Laureate Glenn Seaborg, is capable of performing five trillion calculations per second (5 teraflop/s).
"Until now, this level of computing power simply has not been available to support research across a broad range of computational science," said Berkeley Lab Director Charles Shank. "As of today, however, scientists who are researching global climate change, exploring how to cut pollution from internal combustion engines, designing power sources for the future and finding new ways to treat disease have a much more powerful tool at their disposal. We fully expect this research to help shape how we live in the future."
The supercomputer is located in Berkeley Lab's new Oakland Scientific Facility in downtown Oakland. The new IBM SP boasts the computing power of more than one million desktop PCs, all able to work together to tackle some of the world's toughest scientific problems.
After thorough testing to ensure it met the rigorous demands of 24-by-7 operation, NERSC's IBM SP was opened to DOE's research community in late August. Soon afterward, scientists around the country began using its power to make important gains in studying complex problems.
"Serving up a lot of computing horsepower is only part of the computational science equation," said Horst Simon, director of the NERSC Division at Berkeley Lab. "The real measure of our success as a supercomputing center is the level of science our research community is able to achieve using our resources. We're very excited by the results already being reported and are looking forward to even greater accomplishments."
Early users of the IBM supercomputer have already reported the following important scientific results in astrophysics, climate research and materials science:
The Nature of the Universe
"The models include the absolute latest physics and detailed spherical radiation transport, which has never been done before for this type of model and for so many models at once," Hauschildt said. "The resulting model grid will be used to analyze observed spectra and to better understand the physics behind these types of stars."
Fellow researcher Eddie Baron of the University of Oklahoma ran numerous models of Type IIP supernovae, which will be extremely useful for determining the extragalatic distance scale and determining the nature of the dark energy. The existence of dark energy was strongly implied when two international groups of astronomers and physicists -- the Berkeley Lab-based Supernova Cosmology Project and the High-Z Supernova Search Team -- discovered the accelerating expansion of the universe, using type Ia supernovae. The unknown energy acts to overcome gravity and is thought to make up about two thirds of the density of the universe. It can be verified independently by models using type II supernovae, which Baron calculated with the new NERSC machine. Baron said the models ran up to four times faster on the new IBM than on previous supercomputers.
High-Resolution Global Climate Modeling
Global climate simulations are typically performed on a latitude-longitude grid, with grid cell sizes of about 300 kilometers. Although simulations of this type can provide useful information on continental and larger scales, they cannot provide meaningful information on regional scales, such as for the state of California, Duffy said.
"Thus, coarse-resolution global climate simulations cannot provide information on many of the most important societal impacts of climate change, such as impacts on water resource management, agriculture, human health, etc.," Duffy said. "To do this would require simulations with much finer spatial resolution. Using NERSC's new IBM, as well as supercomputers here at Lawrence Livermore National Lab, we have been experimenting with running global climate simulations at 50 km resolution. This is finer resolution than has ever been attempted in a global climate calculation."
Compared to a typical global climate simulation, this 50-km simulation has 32 times more grid cells and takes up to 200 times longer to run on a computer.
"Obviously, such a calculation could not even be attempted without
access to extraordinary computational resources," Duffy said. "Our
goal for the 50-kilometer global climate simulation is to evaluate how
well the model simulates the present climate at this resolution. Thus
far we have run about three simulated years; preliminary analysis of the
results seems to indicate that the model is very robust to a large increase
in spatial resolution."
Better Understanding of Magnetic Forces
These large-scale quantum mechanical simulations, involving 2016-atom
super-cell models, reveal details of the orientational configuration of
the magnetic moments at the interface that are unobtainable by any other
means. This work is of fundamental importance in improving magnetic multi-layer
computer storage and read head devices. Using 2,176 processors on the
IBM SP, the team achieved a maximum execution rate of 2.46 teraflop/s,
one of the highest levels ever for a code producing significant scientific