Early in the next decade, the first computers capable of at least one quintillion calculations per second will come online at Argonne National Laboratory.
That’s a one followed by 18 zeroes, or what scientists call "exascale" machines. These will be machines with one billion processing cores. Thing is, we don’t have computer codes that can actually use all that power efficiently — power that has the potential to unlock all kinds of new knowledge.
Phanish Suryanarayana in the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering is leading a team on a new project to make use of all those processors to study the interactions of atoms using quantum mechanics, building on computer code his team has developed in recent years. Funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, the four-year, $2.8 million study — if everything goes well, as Suryanarayana puts it — will mean scientists can study and understand chemical systems that include up to 10 million atoms.