When It Happens Panel Get involved: send your photos, videos, news & views by texting 'OXFORD NEWS' to 80360 or email
A gem of a computer boosts research base
11:00am Wednesday 4th July 2012 in News
A SUPER COMPUTER capable of helping combat swine flu and finding new planets was unveiled in Oxfordshire yesterday.
The million-pound machine – called Emerald – will be used by researchers to crunch medical research data on Tamiflu, create software for the world’s most powerful radio telescope and see how human action is likely to affect the climate.
It will also be able to look at swine flu as well as finding better ways to process medical images.
The Government has provided £3.7m to fund two computers, Emerald and Iridis, and their running costs.
Emerald will be based at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL), Harwell, while Iridis is at Southampton University. Prof Anne Trefellen, of Oxford University, said Harwell was chosen because it also houses the Diamond Light Source and the Isis neutron source.
Emerald’s super-fast processing is combined with high energy efficiency.
Prof Trefellen said: Scientists there are creating a lot of data and it makes sense to avoid moving it large distances.
“We are also hoping that as Harwell expands, more businesses will be able to use these facilities.”
Dai Jenkins, who is part of the Harwell research consortium, said Emerald could create more jobs at local companies like Oxford-based Numerical Algorithms Group.
The super computers were unveiled at the launch of the e-Infrastructure South Consortium’s Centre for Innovation at Harwell, part of the Government’s £145m investment.
Local businesses that will benefit from the super computers include Oxford-based drug discovery firm InhibOx and oilfield services provider Schlumberger Abingdon.
The computers will also be used to help create the world's most powerful radio telescope Ska (Square Kilometre Array), to be launched by an international consortium in 2020 and built in the southern hemisphere.
The Rutherford lab this week won a £2.2m contract to supply the Extreme Light Infrastructure project in the Czech Republic with a cutting-edge laser amplifier.
It supplies bursts of laser energy with power equivalent to that of a full-sized power station, for a brief instant, 10 times a second.
Mike Dewar, of Numerical Algorithms Group, which supplies software to finance companies and the energy industry, said: “Some of our customers might not be able to afford to have these facilities themselves, but we are hoping that they can now benefit.”
Emerald is the UK’s largest and most powerful graphics processor super computer
It is ranked 159 on the world’s top 500 computers list, with a score of 114.4 Tflops
Emerald has 372 processors installed by computer company Hewlett Packard and has a 10 gigabit Ethernet
The graphics processing unit has several hundred processor cores that operate together to crunch through data
Emerald uses 1/20th of the power of similar computers