OAK RIDGE (WATE) - The United States is once again home to the world's most powerful computer.
The Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory's Titan supercomputer surpassed supercomputers around the world to earn the honor.
The distinction was announced Monday in the Top500 list, a semiannual ranking of computing systems around the world.
The list was announced at the SC12 International Conference for High Performance Computing, Networking, Storage and Analysis in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Titan replaced the XT5 Jaguar at ORNL last month. Jaguar was ranked as the world's fastest computer on the Top500 lists in November 2009 and June 2010.
Now Titan is the scientific research community's most powerful computational tool for exploring solutions to some of today's most challenging problems.
Titan's has a hybrid architecture - a combination of traditional central processing units (CPUs) with graphic processing units (GPUs), which were first created for computer gaming.
That unique architecture is credited as the first step toward the goal of exascale computing, which computes more calculations with less energy.
"It allows us to do simulations of the real world with greater accuracy, faster, and over a wide range of scientific and engineering disciplines," said ORNL Director Thom Mason.
Titan reached a speed of 17.59 petaflops on the Linpack benchmark test - the specific application that is used to rank supercomputers on the Top500 list.
Titan is capable of a theoretical peak speed of 27 quadrillion calculations per second - 27 petaflops - while using approximately nine megawatts of electricity, roughly the amount required for 9,000 homes.
That capability makes Titan 10 times faster than Jaguar with only a 20% increase in electrical power consumption - a major efficiency accomplishment made possible by GPUs.
"It's not practical or affordable to continue increasing supercomputing capacity with traditional CPU-only architecture," said ORNL's Jeff Nichols. "Combining GPUs and CPUs is a responsible move toward lowering our carbon footprint."
Because they handle hundreds of calculations simultaneously, GPUs can perform many more calculations than CPUs in a given time. Titan will enable researchers to run scientific calculations with greater speed and fewer mistakes.
"The order of magnitude performance increase of Titan over Jaguar will allow U.S. scientists and industry to address problems they could only dream of tackling before," said Buddy Bland, Titan project manager at DOE's Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility.
That processing power allows Titan to build climate models and help with understanding complex weather patterns, which was recently used for Hurricane Sandy.
"The very accurate predictions that gave a good indication that where it's going to hit land, it allowed people to prepare," Mason said. "In order to do that you have to be able to model the atmosphere on a scale that's relatively small."
Scientists began using portions of Titan as it was under construction, thanks to the capabilities of the hybrid system.
In the short time it has been up and running, Titan has been used for experiments such as improving magnets for use in electric motors and generators, improving the efficiency of combustible engines that are powered by fossil fuels and extending the lives of nuclear plants.
Titan is used by scientists and researchers around the world. Someone is in the control room to monitor the computer at all times of the day.
ORNL is managed by UT-Battelle for the Department of Energy.