Europe's most powerful supercomputer, Blue Gene, was unveiled in Germany this week. The IBM-built machine will allow physicists, chemists, biologists and medical researchers to do highly complex calculations.
Europe's fastest computer...for now
The four man-high black boxes separated by narrow aisles are deceptively modest-looking. But inside, they're chock full of electronics which allow Blue Gene, as the IBM-built supercomputer is known, to be compared to the human brain, said the head of Jülich Research Center, Thomas Lippert.
"The computer has 16,384 processors," Lippert said. "These 16,000 processors have to work in a synchronized fashion to allow the computer's high performance to be applied to a problem."
The version of Blue Gene at the Jülich Research Center has managed processing speeds of 46 teraflops, equivalent to 46 trillion operations a second. That's a tantalizing proposition for scientists and researchers all over Europe who will be able to use the supercomputer to do highly complex calculations.
Supercomputing is considered to be the key technology of the 21st century, said Lippert.
Thomas Lippert of the Jülich center with the high speed computer JuBL
"We need supercomputers to support the huge scientific tasks facing us today with simulations," he said. "Simulations can really only be done on supercomputers, because normal computers would take years, decades or even centuries to do the kind of calculations that supercomputers can finish in a matter of hours or days."
IBM says possible applications are forecasting the weather or predicting the movements of stock markets.
"All projects welcome"
Peter Schäfer of the Jülich center, which is situated near the western German cities of Aachen and Cologne, heads a committee which will decide which projects can use the computer at the center -- the biggest facility of its kind in Europe.
"All projects are welcome to apply, providing they have a peaceful aim," he told AFP.
Ninety percent of the funding came from the German federal state, with the remaining 10 percent contributed by the state of North Rhine-Westphalia where Jülich is situated.
According to the respected www.top500.org website, which provides a ranking of supercomputers, the Jülich-based machine beats a machine in Barcelona, which was considered to be the most powerful computer in Europe.
However, the French Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) claims it has the most powerful machine in Europe, a 50-teraflop machine built by Bull which has recently been installed.
The www.top500.org list is to be updated in June.
The world's most powerful computer is a more advanced version of the Blue Gene, based at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, a US Department of Energy laboratory in California. It is capable of 367 teraflops a second.