In June, a new winner was crowned in the competition to be the world’s fastest supercomputer, with the US taking the crown back from China.
Oak Ridge National Lab’s Summit supercomputer can process more than 122 petaflops – that’s 122 thousand trillion floating point operations per second. China’s Sunway TaihuLight, which held the top spot for the past five years, can do 93.
Despite being faster, Summit has one-fifth as many cores as the Chinese system and uses half the power – a sign of how fast supercomputers are evolving these days. The supercomputer used on the Human Genome Project in the 1990s was less powerful than one of today’s smartphones.
But it takes money to stay ahead of the curve. Summit cost ORNL $200 million.
Because of the expense, supercomputers are typically used for the most intensive calculations, like predicting climate change, or modeling airflow around new aircraft.