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Massively Parallel Computer Built From Single Layer of Molecules

Technology Review (10/27/11)

Researchers at the National Institutes for Materials Science recently unveiled a new molecule, called 2,3-dichloro-5,6-dicyano-p-benzoquinone (DDQ), which can exist in four conducting states, depending on the location of trapped electrons.  In addition, the researchers say they can switch the molecule from one state to another using voltages of different strengths.  A single DDQ molecule can connect with up to six neighboring molecules.  When one molecule changes state, the change ripples to the neighboring molecules, forming and reforming circuits as the change travels.  The Japanese researchers have set up 300 DDQ molecules on a gold substrate, initializing the system so that it calculates the way heat diffuses in a conducting medium.  The researchers note that since the entire layer is involved in the calculation, the system is a massively parallel computation.  “Generalization of this principle would … open up a new vista of emergent computing using an assembly of molecules,” says National Institutes for Materials Science researcher Anirban Bandyopadhyay.

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China Has Homemade Supercomputer Gain

 New York Times (10/28/11) John Markoff

China announced that last month it installed the Sunway BlueLight MPP at the National Supercomputer Center, its first supercomputer based on Chinese microprocessor chips.  The Sunway system can process a petaflop per second, ranking it among the 20 fastest supercomputers in the world.  The system, which consists of 8,700 ShenWei SW1600 microprocessors, features a water-cooling system that could be a significant advance in the design of the fastest machines.  University of Tennessee computer scientist Jack Dongarra says China’s announcement is “a bit of a surprise,” and notes that Sunway’s theoretical peak performance is about 74 percent as fast as the Jaguar supercomputer at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the U.S.’s fastest system.  The U.S. Energy Department plans to build three supercomputers that would run at 10 to 20 petaflops.  The U.S. also is working to develop an exaflop-scale supercomputer by 2020.  Convey Computer chief scientist Steven Wallach is impressed with Sunway’s cooling system.  “This cooling technology could scale to exaflop,” Wallach says.  “They are in the hunt to win.”

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