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IBM's most powerful supercomputer installed at Pacific Northwest

March 27, 1997 Share This!

RICHLAND, Wash. – The Pacific Northwest National Laboratory has installed the world's most powerful single-system IBM supercomputer, a 472-processor RS/6000 SPTM.

The system will be utilized by Pacific Northwest's new William R. Wiley Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory, primarily for research on critical environmental problems, such as cleaning up polluted sites and safely treating and storing hazardous wastes.

"This IBM supercomputer has the capacity to operate at over 225 peak gigaflops (billions of floating-point operations per second)," said Robert Eades, manager of the Molecular Science Computing Facility in the EMSL. "That's the equivalent to every man, woman and child on the planet calculating an IRS 1040 form every second.

"Most importantly, though, this supercomputer will be a National User Facility -- a major Department of Energy facility that's available for use by researchers at universities, industry and other national labs."

Computational simulations and modeling performed on the IBM RS/6000 SP will further molecular-level understanding of the physical, chemical and biological processes that underlie environmental remediation, waste processing and related health and ecological effects.

For example, much of the nation's hazardous nuclear wastes are contained in underground storage tanks, which can be subject to spills, leakage and chemical reactions within the tanks. To help prevent this, scientists, in addition to taking actual samples of the chemicals in the tanks, will use the IBM RS/6000 SP to model conditions both within and surrounding the tanks.

The supercomputer will allow them to better understand the complex mixtures in the tanks and to design new ways to remove the radioactive materials from the tank and then process them more cheaply and with minimal hazards to workers.

EMSL scientists also will be able to model the migration of contaminants below ground, on the earth's surface and in the air. Computations can predict the fate of those contaminants, and simulations can help in the design and execution of any required remedial activity.

According to David Dixon, associate director of the EMSL's theory, modeling and simulation department, the IBM RS/6000 SP will allow the EMSL research teams to take advantage of the latest supercomputer technology to help solve environmental problems.

"It's easy to talk about how these really high-performance computers can aid scientists and engineers, but it is not as easy to produce results," he said. "Simply put, with the cost of cleaning up America's contaminated soils and surface and ground waters using today's remediation technology, conservatively estimated at least $1 trillion, it is critical to the nation that we develop new and better remediation strategies and technologies.

"EMSL's mission is to focus on gaining a fundamental scientific understanding of the wastes and their interactions in the environment to enable us to develop these strategies and technologies," he adds. "To do this, we need to utilize the best experimental and computational technologies and put them into the hands of the best scientists that we can find. The new IBM supercomputer, together with the new software that we have developed to use it efficiently, will help to make this happen."

The RS/6000 SP installed this week is the second phase of a two-phase delivery announced by Pacific Northwest and IBM in 1996. The RS/6000 SP will have 62 gigabytes of memory and 2,600 gigabytes of disk storage.

Tags: Energy, Environment, Computational Science, EMSL, Operations, Environmental Remediation, Supercomputer

Interdisciplinary teams at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory address many of America's most pressing issues in energy, the environment and national security through advances in basic and applied science. Founded in 1965, PNNL employs 4,300 staff and has an annual budget of more than $1 billion. It is managed by Battelle for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science. As the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, the Office of Science is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information on PNNL, visit the PNNL News Center, or follow PNNL on Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn and Twitter.

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