Fastest computer cluster in Berlin-Brandenburg

Science Minister Sabine Kunst unveils new Datura high performance computing cluster at the Albert Einstein Institute

April 05, 2011

2400 processors, 200 servers, 4.8 TeraByte disc space and a maximum computing performance of 25.5 TeraFlops – which equals 25,500 billion calculating operations per second: these are some of the qualities of the Datura high performance computer, which will now help scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics (Albert Einstein Institute/AEI) to calculate the collisions of black holes and neutron stars.

Background information

Numerical simulations on Datura

The Numerical Relativity Group at the AEI has long been the global leader in the simulation of extreme cosmic phenomena: On the high performance computers of the Institute, neutron stars collapse to black holes, stars explode and black holes inspiral towards each other. All of these processes have in common that gravitational waves are formed: tiny ripples in space-time, which Albert Einstein predicted in his general theory of relativity, but which have yet to be directly measured. The simulated wave signals are intended to help discover the real gravitational waves within the jungle of data. The reason: with a ‘mug shot’ that is as precise as possible, the chances of actually capturing and identifying in the data are greatly increased. The new cluster supplements Damiana, the supercomputer that is already located at the Institute.

Today, there are five interferometric gravitational wave detectors worldwide: The German-British GEO600 project in the vicinity of Hannover, the three LIGO detectors in the USA in Louisiana and Washington, and the French-Italian Virgo project in Pisa, Italy. In addition, the planned LISA space project (Laser Interferometer Space Antenna) is expected to be launched jointly by ESA and NASA in 2020. AEI scientists are playing a leading role at GEO600 and LISA and, within the framework of the LIGO-Virgo collaboration, are working closely with colleagues from other detector projects.


The Numerical Relativity Group headed by Prof. Rezzolla named the cluster computer after the Jimson weed plant, Datura stramonium. Also often called ‘Devil’s snare’, the member of the nightshade family contains various poisonous and hallucinogenic elements, but also develops very attractive white flowers.

The cluster is particularly suitable for problems that can be well paralleled. These are matrix operations as they are generally also used for simulation computations. To this effect, the individual nodes of the cluster must be able to communicate with each other particularly fast and effectively. The calculation of Einstein equations for astrophysically-interesting cases, like, for example, the merging process of black holes or neutron stars, is the main research area of the Numerical Relativity Group.

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