The federal government has given Princeton Plasma Physics Lab the gift of time this holiday season. The Department of Energy has awarded PPPL 28 million hours worth of time on its two supercomputers in an effort to advance the lab’s fusion energy research projects.
PPPL’s Weixing Wang has been awarded 20 million supercomputing hours at the DOE Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, while William Tang has been awarded 8 million at Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois. Wang and Tang will be using the time for fusion energy-related research regarding simulations of plasma turbulence at small and large scales. Plasma is a hot gas of charged particles and the fuel for fusion energy production. It is the same principle as the sun. The awards also go to Stephane Ethier, David Mikkelsen, Greg Hammett, and W. W. Lee, who are researchers at PPPL.
The time awards do not necessarily reflect actual hours — which would fall just shy of 3,200 years — but hours per processor used to make calculations. Ethier says that modern supercomputers consist of “hundreds of thousands of processors tightly coupled together via a communication network so that they can all work simultaneously on various parts of a single problem. One million processor hours converts to 10 hours of real wall-clock time if 100,000 processors are used to carry out a calculation.”
The allocations, announced on November 30, are part of the largest time awards the DOE has ever given.
According to Steven Chu, secretary of energy, the supercomputers provide an enormous competitive advantage by allowing for computer simulations and virtual experiments that in most cases would be impossible or impractical in the natural world.
The supercomputers together roughly equal the computing power of 135,000 quad-core laptops. Chu said that such power can help evolve an understanding of fusion plasma behavior, speed the development of more efficient solar cells, improve biofuel production, enhance medications, and slow the progression of Parkinson’s disease.
#b#Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory#/b#, Princeton University, James Forrestal Campus, Box 451, Princeton 08543-0451; 609-243-2000; fax, 609-243-2751. Stewart Prager, director. www.pppl.gov