When it comes to solving some of the world’s biggest problems, supercomputers can be super heroes. That’s why the Department of Energy is asking Intel and Cray Computing to build the first exascale computer in the U.S.
The computer, which will be named Aurora, will be used to tackle problems “such as cancer research, climate modeling and veterans’ health treatments,” and will ultimately “have an incredibly significant impact on our society,” Secretary of Energy Rick Perry said in a news release.
Expected to be delivered to Argonne National Laboratory, just outside of Chicago, by 2021, Aurora will be able to complete a quintillion—that’s one billion billion—calculations per second. The contract for the exascale computer is valued at more than $500 million.
The supercomputer will also use a mix of high performance computing and artificial intelligence to map the human brain, as well as to take on the lofty challenge of creating materials to help further humankind’s understanding of the universe.
There has long been a race between countries for bragging rights over who has the most powerful supercomputer. Last year, the U.S. took back the title from China, thanks to the computing power of the IBM-built Summit Supercomputer, which can handle 200 quadrillion calculations per second. That’s 200 followed by 15 zeroes. Aurora will be at least fifty times faster than world’s current top supercomputers, according to a news release from the University of Chicago.
Solving far-off problems doesn’t pay, however—at least not yet. News of the Aurora deal didn’t seem to move Intel’s stock price, which closed the day down less than half a percent.