DOE Supercomputers to Pursue Breakthroughs in Biofuels, Climate Change

December 1, 2010

DOE announced on November 30 the largest ever awards of its supercomputing time to 57 innovative research projects that are using computer simulations to perform experiments in areas including biofuels and climate change. Using two world-leading supercomputers with a computational capacity roughly equal to 135,000 laptops with quad-core processors, the research could help speed the development of more efficient solar cells or foster improvements in biofuel production. The projects span both academic and commercial research, including partnerships with companies such as General Electric and Boeing to use sophisticated computer modeling in the pursuit of innovations such as better wind turbines.

DOE is awarding time on two of the world's fastest and most powerful supercomputers: the Cray XT5 ("Jaguar") at DOE's Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the IBM Blue Gene/P ("Intrepid") at DOE's Argonne National Laboratory. The awards include nearly 1.7 billion processor hours on DOE's advanced supercomputers, the largest total ever. Granted under DOE's Innovative and Novel Computational Impact on Theory and Experiment (INCITE) program, many of the new and continuing projects aim to advance renewable energy solutions and to understand the environmental impacts of energy use. The program, open to all scientists, is supported by DOE's Office of Science and is managed by the DOE Leadership Computing Facilities at Argonne and Oak Ridge National Laboratories.

INCITE program goals encompass research into the roles of ocean, atmosphere, land, and ice in climate change; advancement of materials for lithium air batteries, solar cells, and superconductors; improving combustion in fuel-efficient, near-zero-emissions systems; and development of fusion energy systems. In a project headed by Oak Ridge, both the Jaguar and Intrepid supercomputers will be used to demonstrate a working prototype of a rechargeable lithium-air battery that could store 10 times the energy of a lithium-ion battery of the same weight. A simulation headed by DOE's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory is aimed at better understanding how hydrogen and hydrogen compounds could be used as a practical fuel for producing power and heat. See the DOE press release and the full list of INCITE award selectionsPDF.