China’s GPU Supercomputing producing scientific results in solar energy research

China’s GPU supercomputers, like the Tianhe-1A, are just a small part of the investments that China is making in science and technology sectors – especially the high-performance computing (HPC) space. Tianhe-1A, the world’s fastest supercomputer based on NVIDIA Tesla GPUs, has proven that it is a true scientific tool.

Scientists at the Institute of Process Engineering (IPE) at the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) announced a record-breaking scientific simulation on the Tianhe-1A GPU supercomputer that furthers their research in solar energy. CAS-IPE scientists ran a complex molecular dynamics (MD) simulation on all 7,168 NVIDIA Tesla GPUs to achieve a performance of 1.87 petaflops per second – that’s about the same performance as 130,000 laptops. These scientists are simulating the structure of crystalline silicon which is used in solar panels and also in the semiconductor industry. And they were able to accomplish this world’s fastest MD simulation by writing just 2,000 lines of CUDA code.

They simulated a system with 110.1 billion atoms and the simulation ran for about 500,000 time steps to simulate a physical time of 0.116 nanoseconds of the system evolution (it seems this is a meaningful time span for the physical problem at hand). Each step takes 25 microseconds to compute, so the whole simulation takes about 3 hours on the Tianhe-1A system.

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