FACULTY HONOR: Three Princeton projects awarded supercomputer hours

June 4, 2015 1 p.m.

Three Princeton University-related computer programs have been chosen to run on a new supercomputer that will deliver enhanced scientific findings when it begins crunching numbers in 2018. The three projects were among 13 selected to run in the Center for Accelerated Application Readiness program at the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility. The codes will run on Summit, a supercomputer that will have more than five times the computing power of Titan, the current U.S. leader, which can perform up to 27 quadrillion — or million billion — calculations a second. 

Princeton University researchers led by Jeroen Tromp plan to use Summit to map the planet's interior down to the center of its white-hot inner core. While previous work employed seismic wave data from a few hundred earthquakes, the new study will crunch data from thousands of earthquakes, said Tromp, the Blair Professor of Geology and a professor of geosciences and applied and computational mathematics and associate director of the Princeton Institute for Computational Science and Engineering (PICSciE).

Physicists led by C.S. Chang, managing principal research physicist at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL), will use Summit to model the dazzlingly complex conditions at the edge of the plasma that fuels fusion reactions in magnetic fusion facilities called tokamaks. The team is studying a special type of turbulence called "blobs" that have been observed in tokamak experiments and could critically affect the pattern of heat lost to the wall in ITER, the international tokamak under construction in France.

William Tang, head of the fusion simulation program at PPPL and lecturer with the rank of professor in astrophysical sciences, and Zhihong Lin at the University of California-Irvine are leading a team that will model the behavior of billions to trillions of individual plasma particles in multiple dimensions while accounting for the electromagnetic waves these particles excite as they move within a tokamak. The simulations are expected to deepen insight into the conditions required for sustained fusion reactions by enhancing understanding of plasma confinement and the impact of turbulence.