NERSCPowering Scientific Discovery for 50 Years

DOE's Office of Science Awards 18 Million Hours of Supercomputing Time to 15 Teams for Large-Scale Scientific Computing

January 31, 2006

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Secretary of Energy Samuel W. Bodman announced today that DOE’s Office of Science has awarded a total of 18.2 million hours of computing time on some of the world’s most powerful supercomputers to help researchers in government labs, universities and industry tackle some of the most challenging scientific problems of our time.

Of the 15 projects given awards, two projects will receive 3.5 million hours on the IBM SP supercomputer at DOE’s National Energy Research Scientific Computing (NERSC) Center in California.

The allocations of computing time are made under DOE’s Innovative and Novel Computational Impact on Theory and Experiment (INCITE) program, now in its third year of providing resources to computationally intensive research projects in the national interest. The INCITE program provides users with large amounts of dedicated computing time on some of the most advanced computing resources anywhere. In its first two years, during which six projects were awarded time at NERSC, INCITE enabled scientists to create unprecedented simulations and gain greater insight into problems in chemistry, combustion, astrophysics, genetics and turbulence.

For the first time in the three-year history of INCITE, proposals from private-sector researchers were specifically encouraged. In return, much of the resulting knowledge will be made publicly available. The program was also expanded from a single supercomputing facility — NERSC at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory — to five supercomputers at four DOE labs in Berkeley, Calif.; Chicago, Ill.; Oak Ridge, Tenn.; and Richland, Wash. This allowed DOE to increase the number of grants to 15, up from three in each of the past two years.

“Based on the scientific community’s response to INCITE, along with the availability of additional supercomputers, we are now able to take this groundbreaking computational science program to a new level,” Energy Secretary Bodman said in announcing the latest INCITE grants. “Previous INCITE projects have addressed problems ranging in size from the photosynthesis chemistry in plant molecules to supernova explosions, from turbulent flows to the formation of stars, from protein folding to combustion studies. What they all have in common is that access to DOE’s scientific computing resources has allowed researchers to make advances that would have otherwise taken much longer or not been possible.”

INCITE projects to be supported at NERSC are:

“Precision Cosmology Using the Lyman Alpha Forest,” a project led by Michael Norman of the University of California, San Diego. This project, which was awarded 1,000,000 processor-hours, is aimed at the cosmological goal of precisely measuring the cosmological parameters that describe the shape, matter-energy contents, and expansion history of our universe. The project seeks to increase our understanding of the dark energy and dark matter thought to make up more than nine-tenths of our universe. Recent astronomical observations indicate important inferences about the nature of dark energy and dark matter. The examination of the absorption spectra of high redshift quasars has emerged as an important tool in this inference, since it samples matter fluctuations in the intergalactic gas. This project will achieve greater understanding by high resolution hydrodynamical cosmological simulations of the structure of the high redshift intergalactic medium.

“Particle-in-Cell Simulation of Laser Wakefield Particle Acceleration,” led by Cameron Geddes of Berkeley Lab, was awarded 2.5 million hours to perform detailed 3D models of laser-driven wakefield particle accelerators. These plasma-based accelerators are not subject to electrical breakdown and have demonstrated accelerating gradients thousands of times those obtained in conventional accelerators. The particle-in-cell simulations proposed in this study will interpret recent experiments and assist in the planning of the next generation of particle accelerators and ultrafast applications in chemistry and biology.

Other INCITE projects awarded time include:

  • the design of more efficient aircraft and engines
  • learning more about the molecular basis of Parkinson’s Disease
  • simulations which will help advance fusion as a future energy source
  • improved understanding of human and ecological processes affecting climate change
  • simulations to learn about how cell disruptions allow diseases and infections to occur
  • development of stronger advanced materials and better understanding of material properties
  • improved simulations of molecular collisions which can be used to study a wide range of scientific problems
  • development of computing tools to improve computer visualizations and animations
  • improved understanding of water and how light affects water in biological systems computing the structure of proteins at the atomic level

DOE’s Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the nation and ensures U.S. world leadership across a broad range of scientific disciplines. For more information about the Office of Science, go to

About NERSC and Berkeley Lab
The National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC) is a U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science User Facility that serves as the primary high performance computing center for scientific research sponsored by the Office of Science. Located at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, NERSC serves almost 10,000 scientists at national laboratories and universities researching a wide range of problems in climate, fusion energy, materials science, physics, chemistry, computational biology, and other disciplines. Berkeley Lab is a DOE national laboratory located in Berkeley, California. It conducts unclassified scientific research and is managed by the University of California for the U.S. Department of Energy. »Learn more about computing sciences at Berkeley Lab.