January 8, 2013
“Three teams led by scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) have won major blocks of time on two of the world’s most powerful supercomputers. Two of the projects seek to advance the development of nuclear fusion as a clean and abundant source of energy by improving understanding of the superhot, electrically charged plasma gas that fuels fusion reactions. The third project seeks to extend understanding of a process called magnetic reconnection, which is widely believed to play a critical role in the explosive release of magnetic energy in phenomena like solar flares that can disrupt cell phone service and black out power grids.
‘This is great for the Laboratory,’ PPPL Director Stewart Prager said of the highly competitive, three-year awards. ‘Getting this kind of computing time allows the solution of complex equations and critical issues that wouldn’t be possible otherwise.’
The PPPL recipients:
A nationwide center headed by PPPL physicist C.S. Chang that is developing computer codes to simulate the dazzlingly complex conditions at the edge of magnetically confined plasmas in donut-shaped devices called tokamaks. Chang’s team, the Center for Edge Physics Simulation (EPSI), won 100 million core hours a year on Titan, a Cray XK7 machine that is housed at the DOE’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory and has been proven to perform over 17 quadrillion—or million billion—calculations a second, making it the world’s fastest supercomputer, according to the November, 2012, TOP500 list.
Titan at ORNL
A PPPL-led international team that is studying the rapid loss of plasma confinement caused by growing turbulence as fusion facilities become larger and more powerful. Such losses can significantly decrease the power output of fusion systems but have been shown to level off when facilities reach a certain size—a development that bodes well for future tokamaks. ‘This is very good news for ITER,’ said project leader William Tang, a PPPL physicist and Princeton University lecturer with the rank of professor in the Department of Astrophysical Sciences.
Tang’s project, called ‘Kinetic Simulations of Fusion Energy Dynamics at the Extreme Scale,’ won 40 million core hours on Mira, an IBM Blue Gene/Q supercomputer at the DOE’s Argonne National Laboratory. Mira can calculate 10 million billion times a second, a speed that will be needed to simulate the complex processes that cause the turbulence to grow to a certain level as the plasma size increases, only to stop growing when the dimensions of the system increase further. ‘The question is a very basic one,’ said Tang. ‘What’s the physics behind this favorable trend that is expected to occur in large plasmas such as ITER? No one can presently answer this question, which will require the efficient engagement of computing at the extreme scale to properly address.’
IBM Blue Gene/Q at Argonne
Researchers investigating magnetic reconnection, an astrophysical phenomenon that gives rise to the northern lights, solar flares and geomagnetic storms. A team led by Amitava Bhattacharjee, head of the Theory Department at PPPL and a professor of astrophysical sciences at Princeton University, won 35 million core hours on the Titan supercomputer at Oak Ridge.
Reconnection takes place when the magnetic field lines in merging plasmas snap apart and explosively reconnect, a process seen throughout the universe and in disruptions of plasma during fusion experiments. New insight into reconnection could lead to better predictions of geomagnetic storms and other space weather, and to greater control of experimental fusion reactions.”
It is really wonderful to see this lab and its people thriving in this time of great questions about the future of scientific research.
See the full article here.
Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory is a U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory managed by Princeton University.
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