While 10^18 flops hardware is super exciting, this series of articles from the Exascale Computing Project, by science writer Scott Gibson, reminds us once again, the really cool and important stuff is what you can do with all those (ones and) zeros.
Harnessing the strengths of collaboration and integration, the Exascale Computing Project (ECP) is delivering a capable and sustainable exascale computing ecosystem. The upcoming supercomputers that will employ exascale capabilities will enable scientists to develop new technologies for energy, medicine, and materials, and go further in asking fundamental questions about everything in our universe. In the following narratives, a few ECP project leaders share what they hope exascale computing will make possible.
Predictive Simulations May Point to the Best Design for Fusion Reactors
Fusion energy could one day be a transformative energy source, because it will be clean, cheap, and nearly unlimited, with sea water supplying its basic fuel. A whole-device computer model can offer insights about the plasma processes that go on in the fusion device and predictions regarding the performance and optimization of next-step experimental facilities.
Amitava Bhattacharjee of ECP’s WDMApp project said that the predictive simulations made possible by exascale computing may point to the best design for a fusion reactor.
A Potential Revolution for X-Ray Free-Electron Laser Facilities
Free-electron X-ray laser facilities, such as the Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS) at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, produce ultrafast pulses from which scientists take stop-action pictures of moving atoms and molecules for research in physics, chemistry, and biology. For example, LCLS will be able to reconstruct biological structures in unprecedented atomic detail under physiological conditions.
Amedeao Perazzo of ECP’s ExaFEL project said exascale computing will enable the LCLS users to achieve higher resolution and significantly deeper scientific insight than are possible on today’s top supercomputers, petascale machines. He also said exascale will dramatically increase image reconstruction rate for the delivery of information in minutes rather than weeks.
High Precision for Studying the Building Blocks of the Universe
Quantum chromodynamics (QCD) is the modern theory of the strong nuclear force, the interaction between quarks and gluons that holds protons and neutrons together in atomic nuclei. This is the force that shapes the structure of nearly all visible matter in the universe. The calculation of the masses of quarks is one of the accomplishments made possible by a technique called lattice QCD.
Andreas Kronfeld of ECP’s LatticeQCD project said exascale computing will be essential to precisely illuminating phenomena that emerge from neutrino physics experiments and maintaining the superb cross talk that has existed between the quantitative and the qualitative sides of discoveries in particle and nuclear physics.