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Tuesday, 5 November, 2002, 09:02 GMT
Supercomputer for a day
Chemistry lab, Eyewire
The Canadian project is carrying out virtual chemistry
Thousands of computers across Canada have been interconnected to create a supercomputer that only operated for a day.

The 1,360 processor strong supercomputer was used to tackle a problem in computational chemistry that would otherwise take years to complete.

Linked together, the computers briefly formed the world's fifth largest supercomputer.

The technique could be used in the future to tackle other tasks that demand the application of huge amounts of computer power.

High-speed chemistry

The virtual supercomputer ran for 24 hours on 4 November, accomplishing the equivalent of 3.54 years of computer processing.

The creation and operation of the Canadian Internetworked Scientific Supercomputer (Ciss) was being co-ordinated by Wolfgang Jäger, Paul Lu and Jonathan Schaeffer from the computer science department at the University of Alberta.

The computer was used to model the interaction of two molecules in 20,000 different positions and measure the energy bonds this bringing together creates.

If run on a single desktop computer, the modelling would have taken more than six years to crunch through.

The 1,360 computers making up Ciss were spread across more than 21 separate sites.

Power on tap

Although Canada has invested more than $160million in computers for researchers, few are concentrated in single machines.

Professor Schaeffer said the supercomputer could be used up to three days of every month, helping Canadian scientists tackle problems in climate prediction, genomics, protein folding and nanotechnology.

He was keen to distinguish the Ciss effort from attempts to create Grid based supercomputers which are developing standardised interfaces that let anyone tap computers and resources.

See also:

22 Jul 02 | Scotland
22 Jul 02 | Scotland
02 May 02 | Science/Nature
07 May 02 | Science/Nature
02 Aug 01 | Science/Nature
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