Science and Technology Making Headlines

May 17, 2024

El Capitan supercomputer

Unveiled at the International Supercomputing Conference, the June 2024 Top500 lists three systems with identical components — one computing rack each from El Capitan’s “Early Delivery System” (EDS), LLNL’s newest unclassified supercomputer RZAdams and its unclassified “sister” system Tuolumne. (Graphic: Amanda Levasseur/LLNL)

El Capitan on deck

Three new systems currently or soon-to-be sited at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) on Monday debuted on the latest Top500 list of most powerful supercomputers in the world, including the first portion of the exascale machine El Capitan.

Unveiled at the International Supercomputing Conference in Hamburg, Germany, the June 2024 Top500 lists three systems with identical components — one computing rack each from El Capitan’s “Early Delivery System” (EDS), LLNL’s newest unclassified supercomputer RZAdams and its unclassified “sister” system Tuolumne. All three registered 19.65 petaFLOPs (nearly 20 quadrillion floating point calculations per second) on the High Performance Linpack (HPL) benchmark used by the Top500 organization to determine the world’s fastest supercomputers. The scores ranked them 46th, 47th and 48th in the world, respectively.

LLNL brought the El Capitan EDS cabinet online as part of the overall installation process of the National Nuclear Security Administration’s first exascale supercomputer El Capitan, which is projected to exceed 2 double-precision exaFLOPs (2 quintillion operations per second) of peak performance, making it likely the world’s most powerful supercomputer when fully deployed.

GEOStare SV2

GEOStare SV2: Showcasing Terran Orbital's proven expertise producing high-reliability space vehicles. (Image: Terran Orbital)

STARing into space

Terran Orbital, a global leader in satellite-based solutions primarily serving the aerospace and defense industries, celebrates the 3rd anniversary of its successful GEOStare SV2 mission. Launched May 15, 2021, from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, GEOStare SV2 has surpassed expectations, delivering exceptional results for commercial satellite imagery.

GEOStare SV2 represents a groundbreaking collaboration between Terran Orbital and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL). The space vehicle integrates LLNL's Monolithic Telescope (MonoTele) technology with Terran Orbital's expertise producing high-reliability space vehicles. Developed through a four-year, $6 million cooperative research and development agreement (CRADA), this mission demonstrates the power of collaboration in advancing compact satellites for commercial applications.

Beyond capturing more than 60,000 Earth images and 94,000 deep space images, GEOStare SV2 has served as a valuable testbed for Terran Orbital.

Glassdoor 2024 Best Led Companies - LLNL

Lawrence Livermore placed in the top 50 best-led companies in Glassdoor’s inaugural award.

Leaders are best of the best

Glassdoor, the worldwide leader for workplace conversations and career insights, has announced the winners of its inaugural award honoring the 50 Best-Led Companies 2024 across the United States and Lawrence Livermore is one of them. This award honors companies with exceptional senior leadership teams that go above and beyond to redefine the employee experience. Unlike other workplace awards, Glassdoor’s awards rely on input over the past year from employees who anonymously submit a company review on Glassdoor.

This new award comes at a time when a Glassdoor commissioned survey conducted online by The Harris Poll found that 72% of those employed full/part time in the U.S. feel confident in their organization’s current leadership team, and yet, almost half (46%) of U.S. employees hold back their feedback to management about their experience at work. Shining a light on companies that excel in transparent and authentic leadership while receiving high praises from their employees is just one of the many ways that Glassdoor is uniquely positioned to help job seekers make more informed decisions throughout their career journey.

When providing a company review, employees are asked to rate several factors tied to their employment experience. These include rating sentiment around their CEO’s job performance as well as around senior management, among other factors.

Project DarkStar

Project DarkStar leverages artificial intelligence and machine learning to optimize shaped charges — explosive devices used to manipulate metals. (Image: Carol Le/LLNL and Adobe Stock)

Making the impossible possible

When materials are subjected to extreme environments, they face the risk of mixing together. This mixing may result in hydrodynamic instabilities, yielding undesirable side effects.

Such instabilities present a grand challenge across multiple disciplines, especially in astrophysics, combustion and shaped charges — a device used to focus the energy of a detonating explosive, thereby creating a high-velocity jet that is capable of penetrating deep into metal, concrete or other target materials.

To address the challenges in controlling these instabilities, researchers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory are coupling computing capabilities and manufacturing methods to rapidly develop and experimentally validate modifications to a shaped charge. This work, part of Project Darkstar, is aimed at controlling material deformation by investigating the scientific problems of complex hydrodynamics, shockwave physics and energetic materials.

“Like a hurricane, shock waves and the detonation of explosives are typically deemed ‘uncontrollable’ events. But we have made it our goal to control these complicated dynamical systems,” said DarkStar's principal investigator Jon Belof.

The team employed artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to explore new, computationally optimized designs. The use of additive manufacturing — 3D printing — made it possible for researchers to rapidly realize even the most radical AI-designed components that would otherwise be considered “impossible” to create using traditional manufacturing methods.

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Advanced Quantum Testbed

A depiction of the collision of two neutrons simulated on a quantum chip at the Advanced Quantum Testbed. (Credit: Sofia Quaglioni/LLNL)

Quantum computing goes nuclear

The nuclear reactions that power the stars and forge the elements emerge from the interactions of the quantum mechanical particles, protons and neutrons. Explaining these processes is one of the most challenging unsolved problems in computational physics.

As the mass of the colliding nuclei grows, the resources required to model them outpace even the most powerful conventional computers. Quantum computers could perform the necessary computations. However, they currently fall short of the required number of reliable and long-lived quantum bits.

In research published in Physical Review A, Lawrence Livermore researchers and collaborators combined conventional computers and quantum computers to significantly accelerate the prospects of solving this problem.

The researchers successfully used the hybrid computing scheme to simulate the scattering of two neutrons. This opens a path to computing nuclear reaction rates that are difficult or impossible to measure in a laboratory. These include reaction rates that play a role in astrophysics and national security.

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The Lab Report is a weekly compendium of media reports on science and technology achievements at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Though the Laboratory reviews items for overall accuracy, the reporting organizations are responsible for the content in the links below.