Public Release: 

NSF grant to ORNL is big step toward national cyberinfrastructure

DOE/Oak Ridge National Laboratory

OAK RIDGE, Tenn., Sept. 29, 2003 -- Researchers from around the nation will have access to some of the world's finest scientific tools because of a $3.9 million grant from the National Science Foundation to the Center for Computational Sciences at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

The grant, announced today by NSF, is to establish a network hub and high-performance network connections to support access to ORNL's neutron science instruments across the TeraGrid. The TeraGrid is part of a high-speed network that will provide scientists with extraordinary amounts of data from ORNL's High Flux Isotope Reactor and the $1.4 billion Spallation Neutron Source. When complete, the TeraGrid's network backbone will operate at 40 gigabits (40 billion bits) per second and will be the fastest research network in the world.

"This award is a wonderful illustration of the continuing partnership between NSF and the Department of Energy's Office of Science on the TeraGrid," said Raymond Orbach, director of the DOE office. "ORNL's Center for Computational Sciences will now be able to provide the nation's research community with expanded access to ORNL's extraordinary neutron science facilities."

The SNS, which will be the world's premier neutron scattering facility, is scheduled for completion in 2006. The High Flux Isotope Reactor is the world's most intense source of thermal neutron beams used to unlock the molecular secrets of materials and to provide radioisotopes for a number of medical, industrial and academic uses. Data from the two neutron sources will be made available through the Center for Computational Sciences.

The Center for Computational Sciences, established in 1992 as a DOE high-performance computing research center, is a designated user facility with several missions, including to help solve grand challenges in science and engineering. The center is housed in a new 170,000-square-foot building with a 40,000-square-foot computer center. It is the nation's largest such facility for unclassified scientific research.

ORNL Director Jeff Wadsworth envisions the grant leading to increased utilization of the lab's unique and powerful research tools.

"We are grateful to NSF for their grant to ORNL's Center for Computational Sciences," Wadsworth said. "Their partnership will support our efforts to broaden access to some of the fantastic new research facilities at the laboratory."

ORNL's proposal was one of just three winners. Collaborators were the University of Tennessee, Georgia Institute of Technology, Duke University, Florida State University, North Carolina State University, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and University of Virginia.

The ORNL-led addition to the TeraGrid, called the Southeastern TeraGrid Extension for Neutron Science, will allow scientists working at these facilities to use the massive computing and data storage resources on the TeraGrid to quickly make detailed analyses of the data from neutron scattering experiments. And the system will provide near real-time feedback.

The Southeastern TeraGrid Extension for Neutron Science represents a major commitment to the region and to economic growth in the Southeast. Georgia Institute of Technology President G. Wayne Clough believes the relationship will lead to significant growth in a number of areas.

"Georgia Tech researchers are excited about the possibilities afforded by our partnership with Oak Ridge," Clough said. "This effort will allow them to explore pressing questions regarding the structure of complicated materials.

"From a scientific perspective, this partnership has important ramifications in the fields of biotechnology, telecommunications and environmental technology. From an economic development perspective, these resources show a continued commitment to build the intellectual capital of the Southeast -- an investment that will reap benefits in terms of new business and research opportunities for decades to come."

The TeraGrid is a cornerstone in NSF's activities to develop a national cyberinfrastructure to revolutionize the conduct of science and engineering research and education. The effort began in August 2001 with a $53 million award to four sites: the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; the San Diego Supercomputer Center at the University of California; Argonne National Laboratory; and the Center for Advanced Computing Research at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. In October 2002, the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center joined the partnership, and the consortium received another $35 million.

The ORNL award includes money to create a new TeraGrid hub in Atlanta, which will bring the number of TeraGrid hubs nationwide to three, joining existing hubs in Chicago and Los Angeles. The hubs are connected by high-speed optical links in multiples of 10 gigabits (10 billion bits per second). ORNL will connect to the Atlanta hub at 10 gigabits initially and will work with Georgia Tech to equip, operate and maintain the hub.

Debbie Crawford, deputy assistant director of NSF's Computer and Information Science and Engineering directorate, envisions the national cyberinfrastructure advancing scientific discovery, learning and innovation in areas of considerable consequence to society.

"ORNL and the other awardees bring a rich mixture of shared computational resources, analytic tools and data assets that enable research and education at a scope and scale that were previously impossible," Crawford said. "The resources and expertise that these partners bring to the Extensible Terascale Facility demonstrates the great promise that a distributed cyberinfrastructure has to revolutionize science and engineering research and education in the 21st century."

Others receiving NSF funding this year were Texas Advanced Computing Center at the University of Texas-Austin and a partnership of universities in Indiana led by Indiana University and Purdue University.

ORNL is a multiprogram facility managed for DOE by UT-Battelle.



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