Exascale computing is transforming our ability to solve some of the world's most difficult and important problems.
On October 18, the US Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) is celebrating the fifth National Exascale Day.
The holiday was created in 2019 as an initiative of DOE’s Exascale Computing Project (ECP) and Cray, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise Company, to honor scientists and researchers who will make groundbreaking discoveries with the help of some of the fastest supercomputers in the world, such as Frontier, the world’s first exascale machine.
Frontier, an HPE Cray EX system, debuted in May 2022 at No. 1 on the TOP500 list. Managed by the Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility (OLCF), a DOE Office of Science User Facility at ORNL, Frontier opened to users in early 2023.
The performance of exascale computers is measured in exaflops. One exaflop equals one quintillion calculations per second, which is mathematically notated as 10^18.
Learn about the promise of exascale and discover Frontier below!
In 2016, ECP set out to develop advanced software for the arrival of exascale-class supercomputers capable of a quintillion (10^18) or more calculations per second. That meant rethinking, reinventing, and optimizing dozens of scientific applications and software tools to leverage exascale’s thousand-fold increase in computing power. That time has arrived as Frontier opens to users around the world. “Exascale’s New Frontier” explores the applications and software technology for driving scientific discoveries in the exascale era.
The ExaSMR toolset integrates the most accurate computer codes for modeling the different physics involved in nuclear reactors – OpenMC and Shift for neutron particle transport and reactor depletion, and NekRS for thermal fluid dynamics. The ExaSMR team has optimized these codes for exascale supercomputers, aiming to provide design engineers with the highest resolution simulations of nuclear systems to date. ExaSMR also promises much faster turnaround times and the ability to perform a larger number of simulations – and in turn advance the future of fission power much sooner.
The research facility ITER is destined to be the world’s largest fusion reactor once its construction is completed in southern France in 2025. The key to producing successful fusion reactions at ITER is the design of its tokamak, a machine that uses massive magnetic coils around a donut-shaped chamber to shape and control charged plasma particles formed from hydrogen fuel. To obtain sustainable energy confinement, which enables the performance of a fusion reactor, researchers need to predict the kinetic turbulence of the plasma in their tokamak designs. To help understand how to run ITER for optimal efficiency and safety, the ECP’s WDMApp (Whole Device Model Application) effort will provide the most complete models so far of gyrokinetic turbulence within tokamaks. WDMApp combines two advanced gyrokinetic codes that are optimized for the core plasma.
Plasma-based particle accelerators with high-intensity lasers are an experimental technology that promises to be smaller and cheaper to construct than conventional radio-frequency accelerators, but the challenge of controlling plasmas is considerable because of their inherent complexity and impact of turbulence on their structure and evolution. Primarily developed to simulate plasma-based particle accelerators, WarpX is the first particle-in-cell code for kinetic plasma simulations that is optimized for parallel computing on CPU- and GPU-based computers incorporating mesh refinement. It produces faster, larger, and higher-fidelity 3D models of laser-matter interactions.
For GE Research, exascale computers at DOE are a useful tool for testing new engine designs to reduce emissions.
2023 ACM Gordon Bell Nominations
The ACM Gordon Bell Prize is awarded each year to a project or research that demonstrates outstanding achievement in high-performance computing, with a particular emphasis on rewarding innovation. This year, two of the six finalists used Frontier in their research.
The ECP-support ExaSMR software stack produces the highest-resolution nuclear reactor simulations yet by leveraging exascale supercomputers.
“Winning a Gordon Bell Prize was one of the longshot goals from the beginning of the ExaSMR project, so being named a finalist in collaboration with the ECP’s Center for Efficient Exascale Discretizations project this year is a huge accomplishment for the team,” said Steven Hamilton, ExaSMR project leader and R&D scientist in the HPC Methods for Nuclear Applications group at ORNL.
The “Pioneering Frontier” series features stories profiling the many talented ORNL employees behind the construction and operation of the OLCF’s exascale supercomputer, Frontier. Expand the sections below to follow the journey to Frontier.