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€1.1million supercomputer to explore matter properties of Big Bang

€1.1million supercomputer to explore matter properties of Big Bang

A €1.1million supercomputer is being used to study strongly interacting matter in order to learn about the properties of matter as it existed in the universe immediately after the Big Bang.

The supercomputer is being installed in Bielefeld University's Faculty of Physics and will be financed with federal and state government funds. It will be presented at an inauguration colloquium in the university hall on 25 January.

The new high performance computer will calculate properties of quarks – the elementary constituents of all known matter – and gluons – the force particles that are exchanged by the quarks to interact. The physicists will use the computer to find what happens when quarks are placed under very high temperatures or extreme density. A previous computer, apeNEXT, was able to determine that the behaviour of quarks changes dramatically at a temperature of 1.78billion degrees. While, this temperature is 100,000 times higher than at the core of the sun, the universe was even hotter in the early phase after the Big Bang. This was the time when the foundations were laid for the further development of the cosmos and this is why the properties of the 'quark soup' – the quark-gluon plasma, are so important for understanding the current state of the universe.

To study the 'beginning of the universe' experimentally, researchers are using particle accelerators to create dense matter similar to that in the early universe. This is possible for a short time in a small volume with the Large Hadron Collider and the Bielefeld computer will be used in close collaboration with researchers at the two locations to study the quark-gluon plasma in detail through computer simulations.

Two companies, sysFen and NVIDIA are working together with the university in order to install the high performance computer. NVIDIA's gpus are being connected with a network of computer processors to form a gpu cluster. A total of 400 gpus are being installed, enabling a cumulative peak performance of about 500 Teraflops to be achieved. This is equivalent to about 10,000 normal pcs. One particular feature of the new computer is its comparatively low power consumption. It is 50 times smaller than a system with the same computing capability composed of pcs.

Edwin Laermann, professor of Theoretical Physics at Bielefeld University, is a member of the 'lattice gauge theory' research group that will be working with the new supercomputer. "We are excited about the new possibilities the gpu cluster will bring to research on strongly interacting hot and dense matter at Bielefeld University," he said.

Chris Shaw

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