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IBM and NIST Launch Cooperative Effort to Develop Applications for Advanced Physics Research

SOMERS, N.Y.—IBM and the National Institute of Standards and Technology's Physics Laboratory today announced a three-year cooperative research and development agreement to develop parallel atomic physics software for IBM's Scalable POWERparallel Systems* SP2* high-performance, parallel processing computer.

NIST and IBM researchers plan to exploit the computational abilities of the SP2 to develop new approaches to accurately predicting the properties and behaviors of heavy elements. This information will facilitate the design of new products and materials, such as X-ray lasers, pollution detectors, mercury-free lamps, catalysts and other new materials containing rare-earth elements. In order for such products to perform properly, product engineers must have information on the behavior of these elements, which is often very difficult to determine experimentally.

With the development of parallel algorithms, scientists will be able to run applications in a fraction of the time it previously took. "We expect computations that took weeks to calculate will be completed in hours with the use of the SP2," said Ajay Mohanty, one of IBM's principal investigators.

As part of the collaboration, IBM will provide expertise to NIST in application enablement and development for parallel algorithms, while NIST scientists will have access to both their own and IBM's parallel computers. In addition, IBM will be able to incorporate the resulting algorithms into software solutions for relativistic molecular physics on the SP2. The SP2 will be accessed by NIST scientists through the Internet, and IBM will provide support in the same fashion.

"This is an excellent opportunity for IBM to tap into NIST's world-renowned expertise in the areas of atomic and molecular physics," said Irving Wladawsky-Berger, general manager, IBM POWER Parallel Division. "By creating high-powered parallel applications to run NIST algorithms, IBM and NIST will lay the groundwork for gaining a new understanding of the properties of heavy elements and how they will behave in new products and materials."

Cooperative research and development agreements such as this one typically cover joint research efforts in which both NIST and the cooperating company provide staff, equipment and facilities in any number of possible combinations, for a project of mutual interest. NIST focuses on collaborative tasks vital to the country's technology infrastructure that neither industry nor government can do separately.

"One of NIST's major roles is making investments for long-term economic growth," said Yong-Ki Kim, a principal investigator at NIST's Atomic Physics Division. "This joint project with IBM is an excellent example of government working with U.S. high-technology companies to push the frontiers of industrial development by sharing knowledge and resources gained through basic research."

The SP2 is IBM's general-purpose, high-performance parallel processing computer that runs AIX*, IBM's implementation of the UNIX** operating system. It combines the numeric-intensive processing capabilities of scientific and technical computers with the vast data storage and complex analysis strengths typical of commercial information processing systems—making the SP2 particularly well-suited for solving extremely complex problems in science and industry.

Parallel processing on the IBM SP2 links together from two to 512 IBM RISC System/6000* (RS/6000*) processors to perform numeric- and data-intensive computations. The processors work on different parts of a problem at the same time, enabling the high-performance computer to support many users and analyze massive amounts of data at blazing speeds. The flexibility of the SP2 allows customers to run both parallel and non-parallel applications at the same time.

Released March 15, 1995, Updated November 27, 2017