Canadian researchers benefit from optical simulation software through Compute/Calcul Canada and WestGrid

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Lumerical Solutions donates software licenses to Compute/Calcul Canada that will enable current Canadian academic FDTD Solutions customers to perform large simulations on WestGrid’s Top500-ranked Orcinus high performance computing system.

Vancouver, BC (November 19, 2009)

A Canadian software company and a leading provider of high performance nanophotonic design software, Lumerical Solutions, Inc., is donating 10 simulation engine licenses of its finite-difference time-domain (FDTD) software to Compute/Calcul Canada at one of the new WestGrid installations. The licenses will enable FDTD Solutions’ academic customers in Canada to run, at no additional cost, large simulations on any number of the 3072 cores of WestGrid’s Orcinus cluster. Orcinus is a Hewlett-Packard (HP) c-class blade server cluster with Infiniband interconnect.

Lumerical’s FDTD software has been benefiting users across Canada for the past four years. The simulation software enables researchers in various industries including biomedical, display technology, communication, optical storage, semiconductor manufacturing and solid-state lighting, to model light to determine how it interacts with matter at a very small scale. Studying the interaction of light and matter is useful when developing complex devices, such as new high efficiency solar cells, biological sensors and optical interconnects for next generation microprocessing chips.

“The software provided by Lumerical is helping Compute Canada and WestGrid support leading-edge research, and advance the computing landscape, in Canada,” says Rob Simmonds, Chief Technology Officer of WestGrid. “This complex and computationally intensive software along with WestGrid’s high performance computing capabilities is a powerful combination that is increasing the productivity of academic research.”

“Researchers run a limited number of simulations on the desktop workstations in their labs, but when they need extra horsepower, they can run large or many simulations simultaneously on WestGrid’s Orcinus” says James Pond, Chief Technology Officer of Lumerical. “Lumerical is proud to support this kind of advanced research across Canada.”

The photonics and nanostructure research performed by Jeff Young, Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of British Columbia, is one example of where Lumerical’s software and WestGrid’s hardware are used to run these very large simulations. Young and his team are interested in developing new optical materials through controlling light at the level of a single photon, which is the smallest entity of light allowed by quantum mechanics. If light can be trapped together with an atom, or an artificial atom at a fixed location on a semiconductor chip, it can generate a new kind of quasi-particle. If this research group discovers a process to render these new kinds of particles, it could have many interesting applications in the general area of quantum information processing. Quantum cryptography is one example, which uses quantum mechanics to ensure secure sharing of information. “When we first develop an optical modeling design, we do it locally on smaller computer systems, but when we have to test the design and get accurate numbers, we run the code for longer periods of time on WestGrid,” says Young. “It would take forever on a basic computer. FDTD Solutions is the best for producing the ultimate right answer, so we use it extensively.”

“The renewed relationship between WestGrid and Lumerical is helping to ensure that researchers from universities across Canada have the sophisticated computational facilities and services required to advance their scientific knowledge and accelerate innovation,” says Susan Baldwin, Executive Director of Compute / Calcul Canada, the national high performance computing organization that includes WestGrid and six other consortia.

About Compute Canada

Compute Canada is leading the creation of a powerful national high performance computing (HPC) platform for research. This national platform integrates HPC resources at seven partner consortia across the country to create a dynamic computational resource. Compute Canada integrates high-performance computers, data resources and tools, and academic research facilities around the country. These integrated resources represent close to a petaflop of computing capability and online and long-term storage with rapid access and retrieval over Canada's national, provincial and territorial high performance networks. Working in collaboration, Compute Canada and the university-based regional HPC consortia provide for overall architecture and planning, software integration, operations and management, and coordination of user support for the national HPC platform. As a national organization, Compute Canada coordinates and promotes the use of HPC in Canadian research and works to ensure that Canadian researchers have the computational facilities and expert services necessary to advance scientific knowledge and innovation.

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About WestGrid

WestGrid operates high performance computing (HPC), collaboration and visualization infrastructure across western Canada. It encompasses 14 partner institutions across four provinces. WestGrid was the first resource provider in Canada to adopt a grid-enabled system for its HPC, collaboration and scientific visualization resources. Since 2004, this system has enabled WestGrid to build a user community across Canada in disciplines ranging from the sciences and engineering to arts and humanities. WestGrid has a cohesive team of technical staff and system architects to support these users.

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