A U.S. government-led group is working with chipmaker Intel and Cray to develop and build the nation’s fastest computer by 2021 for conducting nuclear weapons and other research, officials said Monday.
The Department of Energy and the Argonne National Laboratory near Chicago said they were working on a supercomputer dubbed Aurora with Intel, the world’s biggest supplier of data center chips, and Cray, which specializes in the ultra-fast machines.
The $500 million contract for the project calls on the companies to deliver a computer with so-called exaflop performance — that is, being able to perform 1 quintillion (1,000,000,000,000,000,000) calculations per second.
If the project succeeds, Aurora would represent nearly an order of magnitude leap over existing machines that feature so-called petaflop performance, capable of doing 1 quadrillion (1,000,000,000,000,000) calculations a second.
It also heightens the stakes in a race in which the United States, China, the European Union and Japan have all announced plans to build exaflop-capable supercomputers.
One of Aurora’s primary functions would be simulating nuclear blasts, a pillar of weapons development since the ban of live detonation testings.
Aurora will be built with artificial intelligence capabilities for projects such as developing better battery materials and helping the Department of Veterans Affairs prevent suicides, Rick Stevens, an associate lab director with Argonne overseeing the exascale computing project, said during a news
The project is a win for Intel, which will supply its Xeon CPU chips and Optane memory chips for Aurora.