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The U.S. Department of Energy announced that approximately 1.6 billion supercomputing processor hours have been awarded to 69 cutting-edge research projects through the Innovative and Novel Computational Impact on Theory and Experiment (INCITE) program.

The INCITE program provides powerful resources to enable scientists and engineers to conduct cutting-edge research in just weeks or months rather than the years or decades needed previously. This facilitates scientific breakthroughs in areas such as climate change, alternative energy, life sciences, and materials science.

"Computation and supercomputing are critical to solving some of our greatest scientific challenges," said Secretary Chu. "This year's INCITE awards reflect the enormous growth in demand for complex modeling and simulation capabilities, which are essential to improving our economic prosperity and global competitiveness."

The 69 projects selected, based on peer review and computational readiness evaluations of their potential to advance scientific discovery, were awarded time at DOE's Leadership Computing Facilities at Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois and Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee.

Projects receiving INCITE awards utilize complex simulations to accelerate discoveries in ground-breaking technologies such as lithium air batteries and nano solar cells. The awards also include projects designed to close the nuclear fuel cycle, develop advanced propulsion systems, improve DNA sequencing, and explore phenomena on the tiny scale of nanostructured superconductors. Other new and returning projects feature research in:

  • Energy, including advanced systems for fusion energy and nuclear power, and improving combustion to increase efficiency and reduce emissions to develop safe and renewable energy solutions
  • Environment, highlighting research into carbon sequestration, developing better insight of natural phenomena like earthquakes and hurricanes, and developing near-zero-emissions combustion devices
  • Climate change, featuring projects to improve climate models, understand global warming, study the effects of turbulence in oceans, and simulate clouds on a global scale
  • Biology, including understanding protein membranes to improve drug discovery, diagnostics and better treatment of diseases.

One example of an INCITE award is the research team led by Mark Jarrell, Ph.D., Louisiana State University Department of Physics & Astronomy and LSU's Center for Computation & Technology.

Jarrell's research project, "Next Generation Multi-Scale Quantum Simulation Software for Strongly Correlated Materials," is a collaborative effort that includes scientists from LSU, University of California-Davis, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and Ohio Supercomputer Center. This project received 17,000,000 user hours on the Cray XT supercomputer at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee.

This research focuses on materials science, in which scientists focus on the basic material properties of strongly correlated electronic materials, such as magnets, magnetic-resistant objects and high-temperature superconductors. These materials are ideal for creating new devices and technologies, since scientists can completely change their properties by simply tuning some parameters through applying pressure or magnetic field.

Because the unexpected and changing properties of these compounds are too complex to study with conventional approaches, scientists must use high-performance computers to run simulations that can model these materials, which gives them insight to predict their properties. Computer simulations are an efficient way to study material properties, and it is faster and cheaper to test ideas with computer simulations than to address them by hand in the laboratory.

"This method, and the opportunity to use the Cray Jaguar XT5 machine, gives us a chance to study model systems with the precision that was previously impossible," Jarrell said. "We hope our research will provide a more comprehensive understanding of the makeup and basic properties of these materials."

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