We’re excited to report that Oak Ridge, TN is now home to the fastest supercomputer in the entire world! This June, Oak Ridge National Laboratory officially launched Summit, a $200 million supercomputer that will revolutionize research in astrophysics, energy, healthcare, and other scientific fields.

Summit has unseated Sunway TaihuLight, the previous record holder for the world’s fastest supercomputer. Located in the Chinese city of Wuxi, TaihuLight defended its title for the past five years, but it is no match for Oak Ridge’s new machine. With computing speeds that are 60 percent faster than TaihuLight’s, Summit has blown its closest competition right out of the water.

How Fast is Summit?

To say that Summit is “fast” would be like saying that Michael Jordan was “good” at basketball. ORNL’s supercomputer boasts a computing power of 200 petaflops, which means that it can complete 200 million billion calculations in a single second. If you’re still trying to wrap your head around how speedy Summit is, try a few of these analogies from The New York Times on for size:

  • If a person could complete one mathematical calculation per second, she would have to keep it up for 6.3 billion years in order to match what Summit can do in just one second.
  • Imagine a stadium filled with 100,000 people, each with their own laptop. Summit’s computing power is equivalent to 20 laptop-filled stadiums.

How Big is Summit?

Although it may not be the size of 20 stadiums (or even one), Summit is definitely much larger than your typical desktop. The supercomputer is comprised of rows of black refrigerator-sized units that take up a 9,250 square-foot room. In total, Summit weighs a whopping 340 tons, which is roughly the equivalent of 50 African elephants.

Summit features 9,216 processing chips produced by IBM and 27,648 graphics processors made by Nvidia. In order to stay cool, the supercomputer requires 4,000 gallons of water per minute. The electricity needed to power Summit is enough to light up 8,100 homes!

What Will Summit Be Used For?

Supercomputers are excellent at analyzing massive amounts of data and creating realistic digital models and simulations. Some of the tasks that supercomputers perform include predicting climate trends, discovering oil deposits, cracking encryption codes, and simulating nuclear tests.

According to a press release from Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Summit has already been approved for a number of pioneering science projects. Here is a quick look at just some of the research the supercomputer will assist with:

  • Summit will create high-resolution models of exploding stars, known as supernovas. This research will help scientists learn how heavy elements like iron and gold seeded the universe.
  • The supercomputer will analyze data for the Million Veterans Program, a study in which veterans provide researchers with their health records, blood tests, and survey information. Findings from the study should provide insight into the factors that contribute to disease and addiction and how to best treat these conditions.
  • Energy researchers will use Summit to model materials composed of hundreds of atoms. Previous supercomputers had only been able to simulate materials with tens of atoms. This breakthrough will help scientists as they try to find a more practical superconductor, a material that can transmit electricity without any energy loss.
  • Summit will play a key role in the CANcer Distributed Learning Environment (CANDLE), a joint initiative between the Department of Energy and the National Cancer Institute. Using its artificial intelligence capabilities, the supercomputer will examine written reports and medical images to identify possible relationships between genes and cancer.

Visiting Oak Ridge

From the Manhattan Project to the new Summit supercomputer, Oak Ridge has long been a global leader in science and technology. When you come to visit Oak Ridge, you can learn all about the Secret City’s world-changing research at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the American Museum of Science and Energy, and a number of other popular destinations. To start planning your trip to Oak Ridge, visit our Innovation page!