Nuclear physics gets a boost for high-performance computing

Nuclear physics gets a boost for high-performance computing

Newswise – NEWPORT NEWS, VA – Efforts to harness the power of supercomputers to better understand the hidden worlds inside the atomic nucleus have recently received a big boost. A project led by the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility is one of three to distribute $35 million in DOE grants through a Scientific Discovery through Advanced Computing (SciDAC) partnership program. from the DOE.

Each of the projects receiving the grants are joint projects between the DOE’s Nuclear Physics (NP) and Advanced Scientific Computing Research (ASCR) programs through a SciDAC partnership program.

Make the most of advanced computing resources

As supercomputers grow ever more powerful, scientists need advanced tools to take full advantage of their capabilities. For example, the Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility (OLCF) at DOE’s Oak Ridge National Lab now houses the world’s first public exascale supercomputer. Its Frontier supercomputer has reached a capacity of 1 exaFLOPS by demonstrating that it can perform a billion billion calculations per second.

“Nuclear physics is a rich, diverse and exciting field of research explaining the origins of visible matter. And in nuclear physics, high-performance computing is a critically important tool in our efforts to uncover the origins of nuclear matter in our universe,” said Robert Edwards, senior scientist and deputy group leader at Jefferson Lab’s Center for Theoretical and Computational Physics. .

Edwards is the principal investigator of one of the three projects. His project, “Fundamental Nuclear Physics at the Exa Scale and Beyond,” will establish a solid foundation of software resources for nuclear physicists to answer key questions about the building blocks of the visible universe. The project aims to help nuclear physicists solve questions about the basic properties of particles, such as the ubiquitous proton.

“One of the main research questions that we hope to answer one day is what is the origin of the mass of a particle, what is the origin of its spin and what are the emergent properties of a dense system of particles. ? explained Edwards.

The $13 million project includes key scientists based at six DOE national labs and two universities, including Jefferson Lab, Argonne National Lab, Brookhaven National Lab, Oak Ridge National Lab, Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, Los Alamos National Lab, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and William & Marie.

It aims to optimize the software tools needed for quantum chromodynamics (QCD) calculations. QCD is the theory that describes the structure of protons and neutrons – the particles that make up atomic nuclei – and provides insight into the other particles that help build our universe. Protons are made up of smaller particles called quarks held together by a forced glue that manifests as gluon particles. What is not clear is how the properties of the proton come from quarks and gluons.

“The evidence indicates that the mass of quarks is extremely small, only 1%. The rest comes from the glue. So what role does glue play in this internal structure? ” he said.

Modeling the subatomic universe

The goal of supercomputer calculations is to mimic how quarks and gluons experience the real world on their own scale in a way that can be calculated by computers. To do this, nuclear physicists use supercomputers to first generate a snapshot of the environment inside a proton where these particles live for the calculations. Then they mathematically deposit quarks and glue and use supercomputers to predict how they interact. Averaging thousands of these snapshots gives physicists a way to mimic the life of particles in the real world.

Solutions from these calculations will provide data for experiments taking place today at Jefferson Lab’s Continuous Electron Beam Acceleration Facility (CEBAF) and Brookhaven’s Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC). Lab. Both CEBAF and RHIC are user facilities of the DOE Office of Science.

“Although we did not base this proposal on future electron-ion collider requirements, many issues that we are trying to solve now, such as code frameworks and methodology, will impact the EIC,” Edwards added.

The project will use a four-pronged approach to help streamline these calculations for better use on supercomputers, while preparing for ever more powerful machines to come online.

The first two approaches concern the generation of the small slice of the universe from quarks and gluons. The researchers aim to make this task easier for computers by streamlining the process with upgraded software and using software to break this process down into smaller blocks of calculations that will be easier for a computer to calculate. The second part of this project will then integrate machine learning to see if existing algorithms can be improved by additional computer modeling.

The third approach is to explore and test new techniques for the part of the calculations that model the interaction of quarks and gluons in their computer-generated universe.

The fourth and final approach will collect all the information from the first three strands and start scaling it for use on next-generation supercomputers.

The three DOE-funded SciDAC projects span nuclear physics research efforts. Together, the projects address fundamental questions about the nature of nuclear matter, including the properties of nuclei, nuclear structure, nucleon imaging, and the discovery of exotic quark and gluon states.

“The SciDAC partnership projects deploy high-performance computing and enable cutting-edge scientific discoveries at our nuclear physics facilities,” said Timothy Hallman, DOE Associate Director of Science for NP.

The total funding announced by the DOE includes $35 million over five years, including $7.2 million for fiscal year 2022 and out-of-year funding dependent on congressional appropriations.

Further reading:
Department of Energy Announces $35 Million Partnership for Scientific Discovery Through Advanced Computing (SciDAC) in Nuclear Physics
Orginos and Stathopoulos play key role in Department of Energy’s new SciDAC initiative


Jefferson Science Associates, LLC, manages and operates the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility, or Jefferson Lab, for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science.

The DOE’s Office of Science is the largest supporter of basic physical science research in the United States and works to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit

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