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At Argonne Lab, a Shift From Radioactivity to Supercomputers

By The New York Times

January 8, 2010

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Argonne National Laboratory is phasing out its use of radioactive materials in favor of supercomputers for the purpose of conducting research. "The past was the past, and that really involved reactor experiments," says lab director Eric D. Isaacs. "The future is about a lot more computer-based types of design." The facility is hoping to draw more federal funding to help its researchers devise technologies that could support advancements in energy conservation and other fields. Argonne officials say nuclear-related work will continue at the lab, but the new machines will be used to run simulated reactor conditions.

The U.S. government allocated $180 million to Argonne over two years, to be applied toward the reduction of its nuclear footprint as well as infrastructure upgrades, including gear designed to keep the next generation of supercomputers running at a cool temperature. The supercomputer investments follow in the footsteps of researchers such as Steven C. Pieper and Robert B. Wiringa, who earned the American Physical Society's Bonner Prize for their theoretical work in extending the reach of Monte Carlo programs through the use of supercomputers. Isaacs stresses that Argonne is concentrating on using computer simulation not just for nuclear reactor design, but for research into biology, materials science, and energy systems.

From The New York Times
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