UCLA researchers have received a Major Research Instrumentation (MRI) award from the National Science Foundation to build a 256-node, 512-processor computer cluster to advance research and education in broad and diverse areas of Plasma Science. This major award recognizes the significant role computation plays in scientific discovery and technological advances and especially highlights the strong computational research programs in plasma science and technology at UCLA.
Computing power is rapidly transforming the way scientific investigation is conducted. Along with theory and experimentation, computational-based modeling and numerical simulation are now essential tools in the advancement of scientific knowledge and engineering practice. As a result, parallel computer clusters are now the major instruments used by computational scientists, just as telescopes and particle accelerators are the major instruments used by astronomers and particle physicists.
Plasma research is yielding a greater understanding of the universe, as well as providing many practical applications now in everyday use, such as plasma TV screens. Plasma is the most common form of matter in the universe. At UCLA, frontier plasma research is being conducted in such areas as: fusion energy – which has the potential to provide a safe, unlimited renewable energy source; new particle accelerator technology – to reduce the current kilometer size of atom smashers to meter lengths and for developing compact accelerators used in medical treatments; space weather – to understand the near-earth plasma environment to guarantee the reliability and performance of communication and weather satellites; and astrophysics – to understand how galaxies are formed.
When completed, the NSF-funded cluster will have a peak speed of 3 Teraflops (one Teraflop is 10 – 12 floating point operations every second). The cluster will be housed at the UCLA Academic Technology Services data center and managed by ATS staff.
The principal investigator for the grant is Professor Warren Mori of Physics & Astronomy and of Electrical Engineering. Co-investigators are Professor Steve Cowley, Dr. Jean-Noel Leboeuf, Professor George Morales, and Dr. Phil Pritchett