Plans to build new US supercomputers

The US National Science Foundation (NSF) is to fund one of the world's most powerful supercomputer at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The system will be able to make arithmetic calculations at a sustained rate of more than one thousand trillion operations per second (or a petaflop per second) to help investigators solve some of the world's most challenging science and engineering research problems.

Under the direction of Dr Thomas Dunning, the computer, called Blue Waters, will be operated by the National Centre for Supercomputing Applications and its academic and industry partners in the Great Lakes Consortium for Petascale Computation.

The system will be used to study complex processes like the interaction of the Sun's coronal mass ejections with the Earth's magnetosphere and ionosphere; the formation and evolution of galaxies in the early universe; the chains of reactions that occur with living cells; and the design of novel materials.

The NSF are also going to fund a smaller, but still extremely powerful system at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville Joint Institute for Computational Sciences. It is expected to bridge the gap between current high-performance computers (HPC) and even more advanced petascale systems under development.

The $65m, five-year project will include partners at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the Texas Advanced Computing Center, and the National Center for Atmospheric Research. Under the direction of Dr Thomas Zacharia, the group will acquire and provide to the research community with a system with a peak performance of nearly one petaflop, which is almost four times the capacity of the current NSF-supported TeraGrid.

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