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US To Build First Exascale Supercomputer Capable Of Completing 1 Quintillion Calculations Per Second

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Amid a seesaw battle with China in the race for supercomputer supremacy, the US is now working on building the world's first exascale computer.

US Secretary of Energy Rick Perry announced on Monday that Intel will work with Cray Computing to build the what could be the world's first ever supercomputer that can handle 1 quintillion (1 billion times 1 billion) processes per second.

'Aurora': The First Of Its Kind

Dubbed "Aurora," the supercomputer is due for completion in 2021. By then, it will become the most powerful computer in the United States, and potentially the world. Intel and Cray reportedly received $500,000 in funding for the development at the Argonne National Laboratory in Chicago.

What does it mean by 1 billion times 1 billion processes per second? According to computations, if every man on Earth did one calculation per second, it would take the entire human race four years to reach 1 quintillion. However, as for Aurora, it would just take a second.

The United States aims to be the first country to launch an exascale supercomputer. Other superpowers have similar plans as well, with China setting a 2020 target, Japan looking for a 2021 launch, and the EU hoping for a 2022-2023 release.

"We know other countries are working on the path to exascale, but we don't know precisely when they will deploy their systems," said Rick Stevens, associate laboratory director at Argonne.

Potential Benefits And Uses

Upon completion, Aurora will be used in a variety of industries in the United States. Its unprecedented speed will be used to handle and process complex space simulations, boost research in the medical and pharmaceutical fields, and even aid in weather and climate change predictions.

"The biggest challenge is also probably the most exciting part: to envision and create technologies that have never been created before," said Rajeeb Hazra, Intel's corporate vice president and general manager. "Because this machine requires a level of capability we haven't seen before, the biggest risk is we're inventing something new - but to us, that's also the most exciting part."

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