Thursday, 09 Apr, 2009 Technology

Science's Supercomputer to Study Climate Change and Supernovas


The developers of a new supercomputer, dubbed Jaguar, claim that it is the most powerful machine built to do scientific researches on climate change, supernovas, as well as the composition of water.

The supercomputer was installed at the National Center for Computational Sciences (NCCS), part of Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Tennessee. Jaguar can reach an operating performance of 1.64 petaflops, which means that every second the machine is able to carry out over a million billion mathematical operations.

While most desktop computers have one, two or a maximum of four cores, the Jaguar supercomputer can boast 181,000 processing cores. A supercomputer that is more powerful than Jaguar belongs to the US Nuclear Security Administration, having an operating performance of 1.7-petaflops. It's called Roadrunner and it can be found at the Los Alamos National Laboratory located in New Mexico.

The Jaguar supercomputer was for the first time unveiled in 2008. It took several months to test its performance before directors at Oak Ridge decided to task the machine with its first research projects. The first 21 projects are dedicated to problems linked with the environment.

Three projects feature climate models. One of these models reproduces the global atmosphere down to grids of 14km instead of the more common 55 or 100km squares. As for other projects on the environment, they will model flames inside diesel engines, which will help in cutting fuel consumption and creation of biofuels from waste plant material.

Other issues for the supercomputer will include the study of 3-dimensional structures of SN 1987A, the closest exploding star in almost 400 years and the precise arrangement of molecules in liquid water , which, despite the fact that is very important for life, still remains a mystery.

"This is a very programmable platform with a boatload of memory - three times the amount of memory relative to the next closest system - and is turning out to be very stable and reliable," says Douglas Kothe, director of the NCCS.

According to the National Center for Computational Sciences, after July the Jaguar supercomputer will begin working on climate issues. It will be offered to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change for one or several months.

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