18 million hours of supercomputing time awarded to 15 teams for large-scale scientific computing

Secretary of Energy Samuel W. Bodman announced today that DOE's Office of Science has awarded a total of 18.2 million hours of computing time on some of the world's most powerful supercomputers to help researchers in government labs, universities, and industry working on projects ranging from designing more efficient engines to better understanding Parkinson's disease.

The allocations of computing time are made under DOE's Innovative and Novel Computational Impact on Theory and Experiment (INCITE) program, now in its third year of providing resources to computationally intensive research projects in the national interest. In its first two years, INCITE has enabled scientists to create unprecedented simulations and gain greater insight into problems in chemistry, combustion, astrophysics, genetics and turbulence.

"Through the INCITE program, the department's scientific computing resources will continue to allow researchers to make discoveries that might otherwise not be possible," Energy Secretary Bodman said in announcing the latest INCITE grants. "We live in an exciting time as researchers make advances that potentially can help us all."

Projects to be supported by INCITE in the coming year include:

  • the design of more efficient aircraft and engines
  • learning more about the molecular basis of Parkinson's Disease
  • simulations which will help advance fusion as a future energy source
  • improved understanding of human and ecological processes affecting climate change
  • simulations to learn about how cell disruptions allow diseases and infections to occur
  • development of stronger advanced materials and better understanding of material properties
  • improved simulations of molecular collisions which can be used to study a wide range of scientific problems
  • development of computing tools to improve computer visualizations and animations
  • improved understanding of water and how light affects water in biological systems
  • computing the structure of proteins at the atomic level
  • an increased understanding of the dark energy and dark matter thought to make up more than 9/10ths of our universe
  • simulations of particle accelerators used in scientific research

For the first time in the three-year history of INCITE, proposals from private sector researchers were specifically encouraged. In return, much of the resulting knowledge will be made publicly available. The program was also expanded from a single supercomputing facility at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory to five supercomputers at four DOE national laboratories. The laboratories participating are Argonne National Laboratory, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. This allowed DOE to increase the number of grants to 15, up from three in each of the past two years.

Four of the proposals receiving awards were from industry: Boeing Co., Dreamworks Animation, General Atomics Co., and Pratt Whitney. Academic, research institutions and other companies to receive computing time are: Auburn University; California Institute of Technology; Fisk University; Harvard University; Howard Hughes Medical Institute; Rollins College; Tech-X Corp.; University of Alaska, Fairbanks; University of California, Berkeley; University of California, Davis; University of California, San Diego; University of Colorado; University of Strathclyde; and the University of Washington.

Researchers at DOE's Lawrence Berkeley, Lawrence Livermore, Los Alamos and Oak Ridge National Laboratories will also receive computing time.

In response to the May 2005 call for INCITE proposals, 43 computationally intensive, large-scale research projects were submitted requesting over 95 million processor hours. The proposals covered 11 scientific disciplines: accelerator physics, astrophysics, chemical sciences, climate research, computer science, engineering physics, environmental science, fusion energy, life sciences, materials science and nuclear physics.

Sixty percent of the proposals received were from U. S. universities and 41 percent were supported by research agencies other than the Department of Energy.

In the first year of INCITE at NERSC, scientists from the University of Chicago and Argonne National Lab studying supernovae were able to model the first-ever full-star simulations of stellar explosions in three dimensions. Another group from UC Berkeley and Lawrence Berkeley National Lab used their INCITE allocation to study key aspects of photosynthesis to better understand this sustainable energy source. A third group from Georgia Tech was able to create simulations of turbulence at a scale of unsurpassed detail, which can be used to improve engineering processes.

Currently, three research groups are making significant use of their allocations. One University of Chicago group is seeking to increase our understanding of accretion in the cosmos through simulation and experiment by modeling an experiment being done at the Princeton Plasma Physics Lab to understand magneto-rotational instability. Another group, from Sandia Livermore, is creating direct numerical simulations of turbulent non-premixed flame that will serve as a benchmark for future theory and experiment. The third group, from the University of Washington, is using the IBM supercomputer at NERSC to catalog dynamical shapes of proteins by systematically unfolding them.

"I believe that the overwhelming response to the INCITE program reflects both the computational leadership of the Department of Energy and the widespread recognition of computational science as a tool for scientific discovery," said Dr. Raymond L. Orbach, Director of DOE's Office of Science. "Fortunately, the Office of Science has facilities and expertise to help meet this demand."

Processor-hours refer to how time is allocated on a supercomputer. A project receiving 50,000 hours could run on 50 processors for 1,000 hours, or about 42 days. Running the same project on a single-processor desktop computer would take almost six years. Projects to be supported by INCITE in 2006 range from 16,000 hours for a pilot study of Parkinson's disease to 5 million hours to study protein folding. Six of the projects received awards of 1 million or more processor-hours.


DOE's Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the nation and ensures U.S. world leadership across a broad range of scientific disciplines. For more information about the Office of Science or for descriptions of the INCITE projects, go to www.science.doe.gov.

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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