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Oak Ridge leads DOE INCITE Effort in 2008

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January 17, 2008

Scientific studies on climate change, energy and alternative fuels are among the 30 projects awarded more than 145 million processing hours on supercomputers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory through the Department of Energy’s Innovative and Novel Computational Impact on Theory and Experiment (INCITE) program.

Through INCITE, researchers from industry, academia, and government research facilities receive access to computing power at the National Center for Computational Sciences at ORNL for research on climate change, fusion energy, nanoscience, materials, chemistry, astrophysics, and other areas.

“The Department of Energy’s Office of Science has two of the top ten most powerful supercomputers, and using them through the INCITE program is having a transformational effect on America’s scientific and economic competitiveness,” DOE Under Secretary for Science Raymond L. Orbach said. “Once considered the domain of only small groups of researchers, supercomputers today are tools for discovery, driving scientific advancement across a wide range of disciplines. We’re proud to provide these resources to help researchers advance scientific knowledge and understanding and thereby to provide insight into major scientific and industrial issues.”

This year’s total allotment of processing hours nearly doubles that which ORNL provided in 2007, when the largest allocation was 10 million processor hours. The 2008 program will see six projects with at least 10 million hours, and the largest allocation is 18 million processor hours.

“By providing research access to supercomputing facilities at ORNL, the 2008 INCITE program advances the scientific discovery that is crucial to improving our lives and our understanding of the world we live in,” ORNL Director Thom Mason said.

ORNL’s 2008 INCITE allocations include energy projects related to biofuels such as ethanol; next-generation fuels such as hydrogen; cleaner-burning, more efficient engines; and research that will contribute to fusion energy projects such as the multinational ITER reactor.

Climate scientists will also have a major presence among the 2008 recipients. Leading researchers from the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and other institutions will continue to advance tools that predict climate change with unprecedented accuracy. Other projects are delving into the role of ocean currents in regulating climate, the relationship between carbon dioxide and abrupt climate change, and the feasibility of storing carbon dioxide underground.

“This INCITE grant will allow DOE and its partner National Science Foundation to do three things,” said Warren Washington, who heads the NCAR team, “advance the state of climate and earth system models, improve the horizontal and vertical resolution of the models, and explore further the causes of present and future climate change including various future energy policy strategies such as new low-carbon-emission scenarios.”

The program will continue to reflect the critical research role played by American industry. “We’re extremely happy to be able to pursue our research on ORNL’s leadership-class systems,” said Jihui Yang, a General Motors researcher whose team is exploring materials at the nanoscale, searching for ways to convert a vehicle’s waste heat into usable electricity. “This allocation will greatly advance our efforts to improve vehicle fuel efficiency and promote American energy independence.” Besides the General Motors effort, physicists from the Boeing Company will continue using the systems for creating next-generation tools for designing aircraft and physicists from General Atomics will continue their examination of turbulence in fusion reactors.

The 2008 allocations reflect an aggressive program of upgrades to the Cray XT4 Jaguar supercomputer, which is in the midst of the second of two major upgrades in a year. When the current project is complete, Jaguar’s 31,000 processing cores will be capable of 275 trillion calculations a second, or 275 teraflops—a fourfold increase over a year ago.

Jaguar’s increased processing power is reflected in the size of the allocations being made available to individual projects. Whereas the largest allocation in 2007 was 10 million processor hours, 2008 will see six separate projects with at least 10 million hours, and the largest allocation is 18 million processor hours. The 2008 INCITE program and the large allocations enabled by Oak Ridge’s NCCS Leadership Computing Facility will give researchers an invaluable opportunity to continue pushing the boundaries of knowledge, and their efforts promise to improve both our lives and our understanding of the world we live in.

The 2008 INCITE awards adds to the impressive roster of scientific achievements at ORNL made possible by the unique DOE leadership computing capabilities at the NCCS.
In 2007, astrophysicists from ORNL and North Carolina State University released the first explanation for the spin of a pulsar that matches observation, publishing their findings in the preeminent journal Nature. In that same month, a team of chemists from ORNL and the University of Tennessee released findings that advance our knowledge of adsorption, the molecular process responsible for catalytic converters, chemical sensors, and thousands of other products. Their work appeared as the cover story in the Journal of Physical Chemistry C. Later in the year, National Geographic featured the work of NCCS users from the University of California–Santa Cruz and the University of Arizona in a discussion of the exploding stars known as supernovas.

Also, a team of fusion researchers from ORNL, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Princeton University, and other institutions verified the effectiveness of the heating mechanism that will be used in the multinational ITER reactor. NCCS users are visible throughout the science world and were responsible for well over 300 journal articles and invited presentations in 2007.

To read about all the 2008 INCITE awards, go to the DOE Office of Science home page at:

For more information on the INCITE program, visit:

Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Communications and External Relations

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