University of Rochester

Professor Wins 2 Million Supercomputer Hours

March 12, 2008

Chuang Ren, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and physics at the University of Rochester has won a U. S. Department of Energy award—and with it a chance to conduct his fusion research on a supercomputer.

This year Ren will use 2 million hours' worth of computing time on the NERSC HPC high performance computer at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory to run large-scale simulations of fast ignition, a new method to achieve fusion as a long-term, environment-friendly energy source for humanity. He is a computational and theoretical plasma scientist and the project for which he will use the computer time is titled "Three-Dimensional Particle-in-Cell Simulations for Fast Ignition."

Ren won this award in 2007 as well. Using the computer time from that award, Ren's team has found many phenomena that exist in certain fast-ignition plasmas. In particular, the team's work shows that low-intensity laser pulses minimize the energy needed to bore a hole in the plasma surrounding the fusion target. This allows the main ignition pulse to get closer to the target core and ignite fusion more effectively.

Ren's simulations of fast ignition to assess the potential of a new fusion concept will be an important part of the research within the DOE Fusion Science Center for Extreme States of Matter and Fast Ignition Physics. The results will have impact on fast ignition experiments now planned at the Laboratory for Laser Energetics (LLE) at the University of Rochester and other facilities.

Ren's time on the supercomputer is measured in processor-hours. A project receiving 2 million hours could run on 4,000 processors for 500 hours, or about 21 days. Running a 2-million-hour project on a single-processor desktop computer would take more than 228 years.

In total, 55 researchers from universities and corporations across the country successfully competed for the 2008 Innovative and Novel Computational Impact on Theory and Experiment (INCITE) awards, which was announced on Jan. 17.

Launched in 2003, the INCITE awards advance American science and industrial competitiveness. These awards support computationally intensive, large-scale research projects and grant those programs large amounts of dedicated time on DOE supercomputers. The projects, with applications from aeronautics and astrophysics to consumer products and combustion research, were competitively chosen based on the potential impact of the science and engineering research and the suitability of the project for use of supercomputers.