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New Supercomputing Center To Advance the Science of Nanotechnology

May 10, 2006

New Supercomputing Center To Advance the Science of Nanotechnology

$100 million partnership will create world’s most powerful university-based computing center

Troy, N.Y. — Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, in collaboration with IBM and New York state, has announced a $100 million partnership to create the world’s most powerful university-based supercomputing center, and a top 10 supercomputing center of any kind in the world. 

The Computational Center for Nanotechnology Innovations (CCNI), based on the Rensselaer campus and at its Rensselaer Technology Park in Troy, N.Y., is designed both to help continue the impressive advances in shrinking device dimensions seen by electronics manufacturers, and to extend this model to a wide array of industries that could benefit from nanotechnology, according to the partners.

Cadence Design Systems, a leader in electronic design automation (EDA) software, and AMD, a leader in advanced microprocessor technology and products, will collaborate with Rensselaer and IBM at the Supercomputing Center in advanced simulation and modeling of nanoelectronic devices and circuitry. This activity complements the ongoing joint R&D activity between IBM and AMD in East Fishkill and Albany developing advanced high performance Silicon on Insulator (SOI) semiconductor devices and manufacturing processes.

The CCNI will focus on reducing the time and costs associated with designing and manufacturing nanoscale materials, devices, and systems.  

“This new supercomputing center dedicated to nanotechnology will have global impact by finding innovative solutions to the challenges facing the continued productivity growth of the semiconductor industry and enabling key nanotechnology innovations in the fields of energy, biotechnology, arts, and medicine,” said Rensselaer President Shirley Ann Jackson. “We applaud Senator Bruno and IBM for their vision and commitment to expand technology research in New York state and across the globe.”

“This partnership between Rensselaer, IBM, and the state will create one of the world’s top 10 supercomputing centers, and the most powerful university-based supercomputing center anywhere,” said Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno. “Establishing this world-class science and technology research center has the power to transform the Capital Region into a high-tech destination. This collaboration will attract new business, support existing companies, and generate high-paying jobs in the region.”

“Current semiconductor technology is rapidly approaching its practical limits. New, nanotechnology-based technologies will be needed to sustain the productivity growth that the information technology industry provides to the world economy,” said John E. Kelly III, IBM’s senior vice president of technology and intellectual property. “We are delighted with New York’s and RPI’s continuing commitment to leadership in this important field. We also look forward to extending our collaboration with AMD and Cadence to innovate around the technical barriers our industry is facing.”

The ability to design and manufacture smaller, cheaper, and faster semiconductor devices is crucial to sustaining Moore’s Law, which states that the number of transistors per a given area doubles roughly every 18 months. Chip designers and manufacturers have sustained Moore’s prediction by continually shrinking the size of devices on semiconductor chips. Today’s circuit components measure about 65 nanometers (nm) in width, or 65 billionths of a meter. According to the International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors, this needs to shrink to 45 nm by 2009, 35 nm by 2012, and 22 nm by 2015.

The continued miniaturization of semiconductor technology is forcing the need for simulation across an unprecedented broad range of dimensions all the way down to the atomic scale.  Rensselaer will dedicate a multidisciplinary scientific and engineering team to groundbreaking collaborative nanotechnology research among industry, government, and academia.

“The CCNI will bring together university and industry researchers under one roof to conduct a broad range of computational simulations, from the interactions between atoms and molecules up to the behavior of the complete device. This will help enable the semiconductor industry to bridge the gaps between fundamental device science, design, and manufacturing at the nanoscale,” said Omkaram (Om) Nalamasu, vice president for research at Rensselaer. 

The center will be an important resource for companies of any size — from start-ups to established firms — to perform research that would be impossible without both the computing power and the expert researchers at CCNI.

“Breakthroughs in the development and application of nanotechnology will result from systematic and broad multidisciplinary collaboration,” said Mike Fister, president and CEO of Cadence Design Systems Inc. “As the leader in electronic design automation (EDA), we look forward to providing significant contributions to the research conducted at the CCNI, particularly in the areas of design modeling, simulation, and optimization to make nanoscale technology a reality.”

The CCNI system will be made up of massively parallel Blue Gene supercomputers, POWER-based Linux clusters, and AMD Opteron processor-based clusters, providing more than 70 teraflops of computing muscle.   This will put CCNI among the top 10 supercomputing centers of any kind, and make it the most powerful university-based center in the world. 

The computing power also will benefit a wide array of faculty and student research projects at Rensselaer, such as in biocomputation, which involves the modeling and simulation of tissue, cell, and genetic behavior. These computing tools will offer powerful new methods to understand the complex behavior of living organisms.

Plans for the center are already under way, the collaborative partnerships are being developed, and the center is expected to be operational by the end of the year.

CCNI Fact Sheet
Video of CCNI Announcement

Contact: Theresa Bourgeois
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About Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Founded in 1824, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is America’s first technological research university. Rensselaer encompasses five schools, 32 research centers, more than 145 academic programs, and a dynamic community made up of more than 7,600 students and more than 100,000 living alumni. Rensselaer faculty and alumni include more than 145 National Academy members, six members of the National Inventors Hall of Fame, six National Medal of Technology winners, five National Medal of Science winners, and a Nobel Prize winner in Physics. With nearly 200 years of experience advancing scientific and technological knowledge, Rensselaer remains focused on addressing global challenges with a spirit of ingenuity and collaboration.