A US military supercomputer built with parts made for a Sony PlayStation has set a new speed record by processing more than twice as many calculations per second as the previous fastest machine.
Roadrunner computer can carry out 1.026 quadrillion – just over a thousand trillion – calculations per second.
Later this year it will be installed at a US government laboratory where it will be used to monitor nuclear weapons.
It will also be used to study climate change by allowing scientists to test warming models with higher accuracy.
“This is equivalent to the four-minute mile of supercomputing,” said Jack Dongarra, a computer scientist at the University of Tennessee.
“This gives us a window into a whole new way of computing. We can look at phenomena we have never seen before,” said Michael R Anastasio, a physicist who is director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) in New Mexico where the computer will be based.
The previous fastest supercomputer, IBM’s Blue Gene/L, is also at LANL.
It was recently upgraded and runs at a speed of 478.2 trillions of calculations per second.
Despite being more than twice as fast, the Roadrunner uses fewer chips than Blue Gene.
This is because the new computer is a so-called “hybrid” design, using both conventional supercomputer processors and the powerful “Cell” chip which was designed for use in the PlayStation 3.
Roadrunner’s record-breaking speed was confirmed during tests in New York before it is taken apart and moved to the laboratory.
When it is reassembled and ready to use to will be kept in 288 refrigerator-sized cases connected by 57 miles of fibre optic cable.