China’s exascale supercomputer prototype will do 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 calculations per second

China has revealed that it plans to build a computer so powerful that it will be able to perform 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 calculations every second, according to state news agency Xinhua. In other words, the Chinese government is looking to build the world’s first prototype exascale (1,000-petaflop) computer.

An exascale computer is capable of at least 1 quintillion (a billion billion) calculations per second, and could deliver vast dividends in deep learning and big data across a wide range of disciplines as varied as nuclear test research, code breaking, and weather forecasting.

The Chinese government claims that the exascale computer will be a staggering 200 times more powerful than its first supercomputer Tianhe-1, which was recognized as the world’s fastest in 2010. Last year, the country revealed the world’s fastest supercomputer, the Sunway TaihuLight.

“At 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 calculations per second, exascale supercomputers will be able to quickly analyse massive volumes of data and more realistically simulate the complex processes and relationships behind many of the fundamental forces of the universe,” says the U.S. government on its website.

“[E]xascale supercomputers will more realistically simulate the processes involved in precision medicine, regional climate, additive manufacturing, the conversion of plants to biofuels, the relationship between energy and water use, the unseen physics in materials discovery and design, the fundamental forces of the Universe, and much more.”



China hopes to unveil a prototype computer before the end of 2017 with Zhang Ting, application engineer with the Tianjin-based National Supercomputer Center confirming that a “complete computing system of the exascale supercomputer and its applications can only be expected in 2020,” the Xinhua news agency reported.

A petaflop system can perform one quadrillion arithmetic operations per second. An exascale system is 1,000 petaflops. The exascale computer could have applications in big data and cloud computing work, he added, noting that its prototype would lead the world in data transmission efficiency as well as calculation speed.

Currently, China is leading the way by owning the most powerful supercomputer in the world, the Sunway TaihuLight, which has a processing speed of 93 petaflops. At its peak, the computer can perform 93,000 trillion calculations per second. In total, China has 167 of the most powerful 500 computers in the world, which are used in fields ranging from research to defense initiatives.

The U.S. Department of Energy, which is also in the race of creating exascale supercomputers, is said to have an exascale system operational by 2023. Japan is also heavily investing in supercomputing technology and has said it will spend 19.5 billion yen (£139 million) on a 130 petaflop computer.