It's modelled the evolution of the universe, simulated the behaviour of proteins and explored how different bridge types respond to weather conditions and turbulence. Now the High Performance Computing (HPC) facility at The University of Nottingham has been overhauled - more than doubling the system's capacity to the equivalent of 2,500 home PCs and putting 110 terabytes of disc space at the institution's disposal.
The original HPC was launched in June 2005, and is thought to have attracted more than £15m of research funding to the University. More than 1.4 million jobs have run on the system since then, aiding research in fields from maths and physics to geography. But four years is a long time in computing, and the HPC is now ready for an update.
“Four years ago we were one of the first universities in the country to invest in this kind of high performance facility,” said Dr Frazer Pearce, Associate Professor and Reader in Astrophysics and member of the HPC management team. “Now we’re working with leading global technology company HP to install a new system that will be six times as fast, giving academics access to one of the most powerful computers in the country.”
The speed of calculation on the new facility’s 1,600 processors means that a job that would take more than 100 years on a standard computer will take just a month on the HPC.
Since June 2005 research projects across the University have taken advantage of the HPC’s huge processing capacity. There’s no space for waste in the system. Typically, more than 90 per cent of the available computing power is being used 24 hours a day, all year round.
Dr Pearce’s own research has seen the development of models showing how gas is distributed throughout the universe over huge periods of time. The data from the ‘Hot Universe’ project is currently being analysed. But it has already revealed that ‘fossil groups’ of galaxies — large single galaxies lying at the centre of a halo of hot gas — are galaxy groups formed in the early universe where the neighbours have been absorbed into a single unit over time.
Other projects have looked at the way drops of liquid act and interact, how water behaves in floods and tsunamis, how different bridge types respond to weather conditions and turbulence, and tracking the behaviour of particles in supercritical fluids.
The facility has also encouraged cross-school and faculty collaboration. For example, work on how gases behave in space has informed studies modelling how liquids behave on Earth.
Funding for the new computer has come from the government’s Science Research Investment Fund.
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Notes to editors: The University of Nottingham is ranked in the UK's Top 10 and the World's Top 100 universities by the Shanghai Jiao Tong (SJTU) and Times Higher (THE) World University Rankings.
More than 90 per cent of research at The University of Nottingham is of international quality, according to RAE 2008, with almost 60 per cent of all research defined as ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’. Research Fortnight analysis of RAE 2008 ranks the University 7th in the UK by research power. In 27 subject areas, the University features in the UK Top Ten, with 14 of those in the Top Five.
The University provides innovative and top quality teaching, undertakes world-changing research, and attracts talented staff and students from 150 nations. Described by The Times as Britain's “only truly global university”, it has invested continuously in award-winning campuses in the United Kingdom, China and Malaysia. Twice since 2003 its research and teaching academics have won Nobel Prizes. The University has won the Queen's Award for Enterprise in both 2006 (International Trade) and 2007 (Innovation — School of Pharmacy), and was named ‘Entrepreneurial University of the Year’ at the Times Higher Education Awards 2008.
Nottingham was designated as a Science City in 2005 in recognition of its rich scientific heritage, industrial base and role as a leading research centre. Nottingham has since embarked on a wide range of business, property, knowledge transfer and educational initiatives (www.science-city.co.uk) in order to build on its growing reputation as an international centre of scientific excellence. The University of Nottingham is a partner in Nottingham: the Science City.