Machine Design
Record simulation on a National Lab supercomputer

Record simulation on a National Lab supercomputer

Sequoia, a supercomputer at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, simulated the interactions between a fast-ignition-scale laser with a dense deuterium-tritium target as scientists there research fusion energy. In this image from that simulation, the laser field is shown in blue, the blue arrows illustrate the magnetic field at the plasma interface, and the red and yellow spheres are laser-accelerated electrons meant to heat and ignite the fuel.

So what do you do with a computer that can carry out 16.3 quadrillion floating-point operations per second? At Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, you simulate the interactions between ultrapowerful lasers and dense plasmas in a quest to unlock fusion energy. That simulation, a record for particle-in-code (PIC) simulations, took all of supercomputer Sequoia’s 1.5+ million cores as it tracked and displayed the simultaneous evolution of trillions of individual particles.

The simulation modeled the effects a petawatt (a million billion watts) of power from a laser flashing on and off in less than a billionth of second, heating compressed deuterium and tritium (fuel) to over 50 million°C.

The simulation ran using OSIRIS, a PIC code that uses all of Sequoia’s code in parallel. The code took 10 years to develop in a joint program between UCLA and Portugal’s Instituto Superior Tecnico. The code lets supercomputers like Sequoia do in a day what would take a medium cluster of 4,000 cores a year to complete.

Resources: Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory,

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