Emerald & Jaguar: Alpha Knife & unbinilliums

Tuesday 3rd July 2012
Emerald & Iridis 3 linked HPC systems

The UK’s most powerful GPU-based supercomputer, “Emerald”, will enter into service alongside the “Iridis 3” system. The combination of HPC systems will give businesses and academics unprecedented access to their super-fast processing capability. Over at the USA Oak Ridge National Laboratory, a Jaguar supercomputer, used by University of Tenessee has calculated the number of isotopes allowed by the laws of physics.

Emerald ranked #159 on the June 2012 Top 500 list with a score of 114.4 Tflops and has 372 NVIDIA Tesla M2090 processors installed by HP with high speed Panasas storage and Gnodal low latency 10 gigabit Ethernet.

IN the UK using the newly-available technology researchers will tackle such areas as  healthcare (Tamiflu and swine flu); astrophysics (real-time pulsar detection application for the Square Kilometre Array Project to deploy the world’s most powerful radio telescope), bioinformatics (analysis and statistical modelling of whole-genome sequencing data); climate change modelling; complex engineering systems; simulating 3G and 4G communications networks and developing new tools for processing and managing medical images.
Both supercomputers will  are unveiled at the Science and Technology Facilities Council’s Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL), which will host and operate Emerald, a GPGPU system utilising NVIDIA’s Tesla accelerator technology. The Iridis 3 is housed and hosted by the University of Southampton.
The occasion launches the e-Infrastructure South Consortium comprised of Bristol, Oxford, University College London and Southampton Universities. The Consortium has collaborated with the Department of Scientific Computing at RAL to form the e-infrastructure South Centre for Innovation, which will own and operate both supercomputers.

The Consortium will also share access between the partners, providing  infrastructure for development of data-driven applications, simulation and software, as well as training to create the next generation of scientists and engineers. Both supercomputers have been funded by a £3.7m grant from the EPSRC, in part of a £145m Government investment in e-infrastructure.
Minister for Universities and Science (right) David Willetts MP said: “These two new supercomputers formpart of the Government’s £145m investment in e-infrastructure and  be invaluable assets to business and universities. They will drive growth and innovation, encourage inward investment in the UK and keep us at the very leading edge of science.”
 “HPC based within the Consortium’s research-intensive universities will enable better training and recruitment of world-class research talent, help develop new research ideas, and speed up the rate at which complex data can be processed" says (left) Dr Lesley Thompson, director of EPSRC’s Research Base, "Crucial to maintaining the UK’s leading science base and underpinning our national competitiveness and economic recovery.”
Professor Anne Trefethen, (right) Professor of Scientific Computing, University of Oxford said: “The high set-up costs both in terms of equipment and expertise can be a major barrier to SMEs expanding into newer or bigger markets. This new centre will make it easier for them to step up into the next league. In turn, the supercomputers will help university-led researchers work with industrial partners to develop and test innovative new products and technologies.

Local businesses to benefit from use of the supercomputers include Numerical Algorithms Group Ltd, Schlumberger Abingdon and InhibOx.


(Credit: Image by Andy Sproles, Oak Ridge National Laboratory.)

At University of Tenessee, the team, led by (right) Witek Nazarewicz, used a quantum approach known as density functional theory, applying it independently to six leading models of the nuclear interaction to determine that there are about 7,000 possible combinations of protons and neutrons allowed in bound nuclei with up to 120 protons (a hypothetical element called "unbinilium")

Called the nuclear landscape, but also resembling a exotic snakeskin, isotopes arranged by an increasing number of protons (up) and neutrons (right). The dark blue blocks represent stable isotopes. The lighter blue blocks are unstable isotopes that have been observed. The gray blocks are bound isotopes that have not been observed. Nuclear existence ends at the drip lines (orange clouds), where there is no longer enough binding energy to prevent the last nucleons from dripping off (floating blocks). 

The team's results are presented in  the journal Nature. Most of these nuclei have not been observed experimentally. "They are bound, meaning they do not spit out protons or neutrons," Nazarewicz explains, "But they are radioactive -- they are short-lived, because there are other processes, such as beta decay, that can give rise to transmutations."

Of the total, about 3,000 have been seen in nature or produced in nuclear physics laboratories. The others are created in massive stars or in violent stellar explosions.

The computations allowed the team to identify the nuclear drip lines that mark the borders of nuclear existence. For each number of protons in a nucleus, there is a limit to how many neutrons are allowed. For example, a helium nucleus, which contains two protons, can hold no more than six neutrons. If another neutron is added to the nucleus, it will simply "drip" off. Likewise, there is a limit to the number of protons that can be added to a nucleus with a given number of neutrons. Placement of the drip lines for heavier elements is based on theoretical predictions extrapolated far from experimental data and is, therefore, uncertain.

The closer an isotope is to one of these drip lines the faster it decays into more stable forms. Particle accelerators have been unable to identify most of these exotic isotopes, especially those approaching the neutron drip line, because they are impossible to produce using current combinations of beams and targets. In fact, said Nazarewicz, all radioactive isotopes decay until they are transformed into one of 288 isotopes that form the so-called "valley of stability." These stable isotopes have half-lives longer than the expected lifetime of the solar system (about 4.6 billion years).

Earlier estimates of the nuclear landscape varied from as few as 5,000 to as many as 12,000 possible nuclei, Nazarewicz noted. He said his team's calculations were based on the microscopic forces that cause neutrons and protons to cluster into nuclei, adding that results from the six separate models were surprisingly consistent. By using several models, theorists were able for the first time to quantify uncertainties of predicted drip lines.

Because most of these nuclei are beyond our experimental reach, he explained, models must conform to known nuclei in a way that allows researchers to extrapolate results for exotic nuclei. Insight on the nature of most exotic nuclei must be extrapolated from models, he said.

"This is not a young field," Nazarewicz noted. "Over the years we've tried to improve the models of the nucleus to include more and more knowledge and insights. We are building a nuclear model based on the best theoretical input guided by the best experimental data."

The calculations themselves were massive, with each set of nuclei taking about two hours to calculate on the 244,256-processor Jaguar system. Nazarewicz noted that each of these runs needed to include about 250,000 possible nuclear configurations. "Such calculation would not be possible two to three years ago," he said. "Jaguar has provided a unique opportunity for nuclear theory."

Nazarewicz noted that this work, supported by DOE's Office of Science -- which also supports the Jaguar supercomputer -- and by the Academy of Finland, has both existential value, helping us to get a better understanding of the evolution of the universe, and potential practical applications.

"We are not doing nuclear physics just to see whether you can get 7,000 species," he explained. "There are various nuclei that we can use to our advantage, eventually. Those we call 'designer nuclei.'"

Among these valuable nuclei are iron-45, a collection of 26 protons and 19 neutrons, which may help us understand superconductivity between protons; a pear-shaped radium-225, with 88 protons and 137 neutrons, which will help us understand why there is more matter than antimatter in the universe; and terbium-149, with 65 protons and 84 neutrons, which has shown an ability to attach to antibodies and irradiate cancer cells without affecting healthy cells.

"They have done experiments on mice and now humans in which they would look at the effectiveness of this treatment," he said. "This treatment is called an 'alpha knife.' Applications will certainly follow from the basic knowledge."

It appears that Tenessee and HPC Emerald 'Alpha knife' offers yet another route from Edinburgh's Palladium  health option, or the Scripps Institute's ZFN  development.

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