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Could a New Center Help the US in Global Supercomputing Rankings?

NERSC’s Cray Cori supercomputer’s graphic panels being installed at Wang Hall.

NERSC’s Cray Cori supercomputer’s graphic panels being installed at Wang Hall. // Berkeley National Laboratory

A biannual listing of the world's most powerful supercomputers placed a Chinese supercomputer in the top spot for the sixth consecutive year, but perhaps a newly opened center could soon help the U.S. claim victory.

Energy Department’s Berkeley National Laboratory's new Shyh Wang Hall is expected to include the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center and the center of operations for the agency’s Energy Sciences Network, which facilitates quick collaboration among tens of thousands of scientists, according to a Berkeley Lab statement.

The 149,000-square-foot facility is also expected to be one of the most energy-efficient computing centers in the world. Its supercomputers will not include mechanical cooling, relying instead on natural air blown in from the nearby Pacific Ocean, according to a statement.

The news follows President Barack Obama’s National Strategic Computing Initiative, a July executive order that instructs agencies to boost their investment, research and deployment of supercomputing and high-performance computing technology.

The new facility’s supercomputers and network are expected to help researchers tackle such nationwide issues as sea level rise, droughts and the need for more energy-efficient devices, said Katherine Yelick, Berkeley Lab's associate lab director for computing sciences, in an interview with Nextgov.

The facility will likely be fully functional in about a month, as it is still in the process of transferring all computers and faculty to the new space, Yelick said.

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