New Supercomputing Center To Advance Nanotechnology

By Nicole Hemsoth

May 12, 2006

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, in collaboration with IBM and New York State, has announced a $100 million partnership to create the world's most powerful university-based supercomputing center, and a top ten supercomputing center of any kind in the world.

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, founded in 1824, is the nation's oldest technological university. Rensselaer faculty are known for pre-eminence in research conducted in a wide range of fields, with particular emphasis in biotechnology, nanotechnology, information technology, and the media arts and technology. The Institute is well known for its success in the transfer of technology from the laboratory to the marketplace.

The Computational Center for Nanotechnology Innovations (CCNI), based on the Rensselaer campus and at its Rensselaer Technology Park in Troy, N.Y., is designed both to help continue the impressive advances in shrinking device dimensions seen by electronics manufacturers, and to extend this model to a wide array of industries that could benefit from nanotechnology, according to the partners.

Cadence, a provider of Electronic Design Automation (EDA) software, and AMD will collaborate with Rensselaer and IBM at the Supercomputing Center in advanced simulation and modeling of nanoelectronic devices and circuitry. This activity complements the ongoing joint R&D activity between IBM and AMD in East Fishkill and Albany developing advanced high performance Silicon on Insulator (SOI) semiconductor devices and manufacturing processes.

The CCNI will focus on reducing the time and costs associated with designing and manufacturing nanoscale materials, devices, and systems.

“This new supercomputing center dedicated to nanotechnology will have global impact by finding innovative solutions to the challenges facing the continued productivity growth of the semiconductor industry and enabling key nanotechnology innovations in the fields of energy, biotechnology, arts, and medicine,” said Rensselaer President Shirley Ann Jackson. “We applaud Senator Bruno and IBM for their vision and commitment to expand technology research in New York State and across the globe.”

“This partnership between Rensselaer, IBM, and the state will create one of the world's top ten supercomputing centers, and the most powerful university based supercomputing center anywhere,” said Senator Bruno “Establishing this world class science and technology research center has the power to transform the capital region into a high tech destination. This collaboration will attract new business, support existing companies, and generate high paying jobs in the region.”

“Current semiconductor technology is rapidly approaching its practical limits. New, nanotechnology-based technologies will be needed to sustain the productivity growth that the information technology industry provides to the world economy,” said Dr. John E. Kelly III, IBM's senior vice president of Technology & Intellectual Property. “We are delighted with New York's and RPI's continuing commitment to leadership in this important field. We also look forward to extending our collaboration with AMD and Cadence to innovate around the technical barriers our industry is facing.”

The ability to design and manufacture smaller, cheaper, and faster semiconductor devices is crucial to sustaining Moore's Law, which states that the number of transistors per a given area doubles roughly every 18 months. Chip designers and manufacturers have sustained Moore's prediction by continually shrinking the size of devices on semiconductor chips. Today's circuit components measure about 65 nanometers (nm) in width, or 65 billionths of a meter. According to the International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors, this needs to shrink to 45 nm by 2009, 35 nm by 2012, and 22 nm by 2015.

The continued miniaturization of semiconductor technology is forcing the need for simulation across an unprecedented broad range of dimensions all the way down to the atomic scale. Rensselaer will dedicate a multidisciplinary scientific and engineering team to groundbreaking nanotechnology collaborative research among industry, government and academia.

“The CCNI will bring together university and industry researchers under one roof to conduct a broad range of computational simulations, from the interactions between atoms and molecules up to the behavior of the complete device. This will help enable the semiconductor industry to bridge the gaps between fundamental device science, design and manufacturing at the nanoscale,” said Omkaram (Om) Nalamasu, Vice President for Research at Rensselaer.

The center will be an important resource for companies of any size — from start-ups to established firms — to perform research that would be impossible without both the computing power and the expert researchers at CCNI.

“The next set of breakthroughs in semiconductor technology will result from systematic and broad multi-disciplinary collaboration,” said Mike Fister, president and CEO of Cadence. “We look forward to coupling our core competencies in modeling, simulation and optimization with the wide range of computing capabilities at the CCNI and the knowledge of other leaders participating in the center to enable innovations in new nanoscale technologies.”

The CCNI system will be made up of massively parallel Blue Gene supercomputers, POWER-based Linux clusters, and Opteron-based clusters, providing more than 70 teraflops of computing muscle. This will put CCNI among the top 10 supercomputing centers of any kind, and make it the most powerful university-based center in the world.

The computing power also will benefit a wide array of faculty and student research projects at Rensselaer, such as in biocomputation, which involves the modeling and simulation of tissue, cell, and genetic behavior. These computing tools will offer powerful new methods to understand the complex behavior of living organisms.

Plans for the Center are already underway, the collaborative partnerships are being developed, and the center is expected to be operational by the end of the year.

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Source: IBM

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