RICHLAND, Wash. – Supercomputers help researchers find solutions to complex calculations, quickly sorting through tons of data. These machines are also going green.
The newest supercomputer at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Wash., could be mistaken for a couple rows of black lockers. But there’s a buzzing in the room that tells you a machine is hard at work, and the air feels warmer the farther you walk down the aisle.
The Olympus supercomputer can make computations as fast as 20,000 personal computers combined. And all that thinking creates a lot of heat. Kevin Regimbal is the lab’s director for institutional computing. He says people continue to look for ways to make supercomputing more efficient.
“Over the last 10 years in this kind of computing, we’ve gone from not worrying about power because it was secondary to – it’s probably the most important thing we’re worried about: how much power we’re using,” Regimbal says.
Usually large air conditioners cool supercomputers. But to help reduce energy use, the lab installed a system that pumps water from the ground. The water is looped through pipes placed near the back of the computers. Paul Dotson is an environmental engineer with the lab. He says the water absorbs heat generated by the machines.
“We’re not using any energy to remove that heat, short of a pump to get the water circulating,” Dotson says.
The absorbed heat can then be used to warm other buildings at the lab. It’s expected to use about 70 percent less energy than traditional cooling systems.
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