Rice University in Texas is to build one of the most powerful academic supercomputers in the world, at a cost more than $1.15m.
When fully operational next year, the Rice Terascale Cluster (RTC) will comprise at least 70 interconnected servers containing Intel Itanium 2 processors.
The machine will be the first university computer with a peak performance of one teraflop, or one trillion floating-point operations per second, the standard measure of supercomputer performance.
Research already earmarked for the RTC includes simulations of internet-based applications running on hundreds of computers, and simulations that aim to better understand and predict international conflicts.
The RTC will rank among the 10 fastest academic supercomputers in the US and the top 25 university computers worldwide.
Rice explained that it needed the faster computer to tackle increasingly complex mathematical problems that would require weeks or months to compute on existing machines.
"To precisely map the movements of every atom in a large molecule, researchers need to develop a complex mathematical model that contains thousands of variables," the university said in a statement.
Such models are useful for drug designers and biomedical researchers, and a new scientific discipline known as bioinformatics has been created to solve this and other complex biological computations.
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