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NSF Funds 'Blue Waters' Petaflop Computer at U Illinois

The National Science Foundation approved $208 million in funding to build the world's most powerful supercomputer. The "Blue Waters" project, undertaken by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, will build a machine capable of more than one quadrillion operations per second, or a  "petaflop."

NSF Deputy Director Kathy Olsen said in a statement that the four-and-a-half year project would "give [United States] scientists and engineers access to unprecedented petascale computing resources that will allow them to ask and answer complex questions we haven't even dreamed of."

Blue Waters, expected to go live in 2011, will focus on big science problems such as global warming that require more computing power than what is available on today's supercomputers.

The world's fastest supercomputer currently is IBM's Blue Gene/L, which has about a third of the new system's expected power.

The NSF also approved $65 million in federal funding for a second supercomputer capable of performing 1,000 trillion calculations per second. The five-year project, to be located at the University of Tennessee, is designed to fill the gap between Blue Waters and existing supercomputers.

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About the Author

Paul McCloskey is contributing editor of Syllabus.

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