If knowledge is power, then supercomputing is the path to nearly incomprehensible power. That, in a nutshell, is why U.S. leaders are concerned about the nation’s place in the global race to build ever more powerful supercomputers. The Titan supercomputer, made in Chippewa Falls by Cray Inc. and installed at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, reigns as America’s fastest supercomputer. While the machine is capable of performing an impressive 17.6 petaflops, or 17.6 quadrillion (176 followed by 14 zeros) mathematical operations per second, that ranks only second in the world behind China’s Tianhe-2 supercomputer.

Not content with being No. 2 and aware that other countries are focused on building supercomputers with even more blinding speed, U.S. Sens. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., and Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., last week introduced bipartisan legislation seeking to take American supercomputer research to the next level.

The Exascale Computing Leadership Act of 2015 sets its sights directly on the industry’s next major milestone — a so-called exascale supercomputer, or one capable of performing 1 quintillion (1 million trillion) calculations per second. That’s about 60 times Titan’s top performance on industry benchmark tests.

The bill would fund research partnerships among industry, universities and the U.S. Department of Energy’s national labs, with the goal of building an exascale system by 2023. Read More….