NERSCPowering Scientific Discovery for 50 Years

NERSC to Provide Resources to INCITE Projects Studying Combustion, Fusion Energy, Materials and Accelerator Design

December 19, 2008

BERKELEY, CA — Researchers tackling some of the most challenging scientific problems, from improving energy efficiency in combustion devices to developing new particle accelerators for scientific discovery to studying properties of new materials, have been awarded access to supercomputing resources at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC).

Image of flame surface for lean pre-mixed hydrogen combustion resulting from INCITE simulations by John Bell’s team.

The awards, announced Dec. 16 by DOE’s Office of Science, are made under the Innovative and Novel Computational Impact on Theory and Experiment (INCITE) Program. In all, seven projects were awarded a total of 17,460,000 processor-hours after a competitive review. Launched in 2003, INCITE selects projects that not only require large-scale and intensive use of supercomputers but also promise to deliver a significant advance in science and engineering.

Managed by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), NERSC is home to a 38,000 processor Cray XT supercomputer and is one of the four DOE supercomputer centers providing resources for these INCITE projects. Supercomputer allocations are measured in processor-hours. INCITE science applications typically run on thousands of processors simultaneously, so a job using 8,000 processors and running for eight hours would use 64,000 processor-hours.

In addition to supporting the special INCITE projects, NERSC resources are also allocated by DOE to serve about 3,000 researchers at national laboratories and universities across the country. As the flagship computing facility for the DOE Office of Science, NERSC provided the only computing resources available during the first two years of the INCITE program.

As the original home of the INCITE program, NERSC staff are working to provide the necessary support for advancing these high-impact science projects while maintaining our commitment to all other users, whose work has broad impacts across all scientific disciplines,” said NERSC Division Director Katherine Yelick.

Secretary for Science Raymond L. Orbach, who launched INCITE in 2003. “From understanding the makeup of our universe to protecting the quality of life here on earth, the computational science now possible using DOE’s supercomputers touches all of our lives. By dedicating time on these supercomputers to carefully selected projects, we are advancing scientific research in ways we could barely envision 10 years ago, improving our national competitiveness.”

Here are descriptions of the seven INCITE projects awarded computing time at NERSC:

  • John Bell from Berkeley Lab was awarded 3 million processor-hours to continue his research into combustion chemistry. In particular, Bell’s project focuses on the interaction of turbulence and chemistry in lean premixed laboratory flames. This research can lead to more efficient and cleaner burning combustion systems, such as those in power plants.
  • Warren Mori from the University of California at Los Angeles was awarded 4.6 million processor-hours to develop simulations to answer questions about plasma-based particle accelerators that currently cannot be answered through experiments. New acceleration techniques using lasers and plasmas could lead to ultra-compact accelerators for applications in science, industry and medicine.
  • Chuang Ren from the University of Rochester received 1 million processor-hours at NERSC and 1.5 million hours at Argonne National Laboratory to carry out large-scale particle-in-cell (PIC) simulations of the ignition phase in fast ignition (FI), one of the most promising new methods for improving the viability of inertial confinement fusion as a practical energy source. The project will help make fusion energy an environmentally friendly and safe option.
  • Ji Qiang from Berkeley Lab received 800,000 processor-hours to optimize the design and improvement of beam delivery systems for the next-generation X-ray free electron lasers (FELs), which have excellent applications in physics, material science, chemical science and bioscience.
  • Leeor Kronik from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel was awarded 810,000 processor-hours to study the structures of novel electronic materials. The results from the research will help clarify pressing issues in figuring out the electronic structure of organic/inorganic interfaces with applications in areas such as semiconductors.
  • Paul Bonoli of the MIT Plasma Science and Fusion Center received 5 million processor hours to simulate how particles behave as they are driven by electromagnetic waves in fusion reactors. Understanding the movement of particles in fusion reactors, in which plasmas will be heated to 100 million degrees Celsius, will be critical for designing working fusion reactors as future energy sources.
  • James Freericks of Georgetown University was awarded 2,250,000 processor-hours for simulating the behavior of materials using a new method known as pump-probe time-resolved photoemission. By bombarding materials with intense pulses of light, the material can reach a non-equilibrium state and allow researchers to gain new insight into the nature of properties.

Eight Berkeley Lab researchers also will take part in three INCITE projects using resources at other DOE supercomputing centers. A Berkeley Lab team of Lin-Wang Wang, Juan Meza and Zhengji Zhao was awarded 3 million processor-hours on supercomputers at Argonne and Oak Ridge national laboratories to continue their award-winning  research into nanomaterials which could be used to make solar cells. Additionally, Ann Almgren, John Bell and Marc Day will participate in a project studying supernovae combustion, while David Bailey, Leonid Oliker and Kathy Yelick are members of a team studying methods to improve the effectiveness of supercomputers.

Details about each 2009 INCTE project can be found at

The Office of Science is the nation’s largest supporter of basic research in physical sciences. More information about the 2008 INCITE allocations can be found at

The NERSC Center is the flagship scientific computing facility for DOE’s Office of Science. Located at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, Calif., NERSC enables interdisciplinary teams of scientists to address fundamental problems in science and engineering that require massive calculations and have broad scientific and economic impacts. Go to for more information.

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, the NERSC Center 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.