January 2012

Government-industry-university collaboration: a recipe for success

The Purdue University-based Network for Computational Nanotechnology (NCN) operates nanoHUB (nanohub.org), offering an international community the platform to run some 210 nanotechnology simulation programs. Its goal: to speed up the understanding of nanoscience and move it more rapidly into nanotechnology applications.

Purdue’s Gerhard Klimeck, co-founder of NCN, says he wants “to make the simulation and modeling tools useful beyond me and my group to a much larger community as open-access technologies. I’m very much an engineer, and I love creating things that are useful to others. I try to explain experimental data and then have experimentalists and others run our codes and then move to the next big thing.”

Intel and other corporations are among nanoHUB’s 175,000 users in 172 countries. Among those users are teachers and students – 150 classes at more than 100 educational institutions. It also serves as the conduit to remote tutorials and seminars. NanoHUB resources have accumulated more than 700 citations in the research literature and 30 percent of these papers describe experiments.

The backbone of NCN’s nanoHUB has been so successful that Purdue has spun off HUBzero, which now powers some 30 hubs operating in scientific fields from microelectronics to cancer and pharmaceutical research.

The opportunity to serve thousands of researchers with easy-to-use, HPC-powered modeling and simulation tools through a Web environment lured Klimeck back to Purdue in 2003. (He got his Ph.D. there in 1994.) The experience in tool development, HPC and Web deployment he had gained as a researcher at Texas Instruments and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory enabled him to drive technology development for the Web.

NCN is funded by the National Science Foundation to support its national nanotechnology initiative. NCN aims to make nanotechnology modeling and simulation software and tools available to a broad community. Computational and experimental researchers, students and classroom instructors comprise nanoHUB.org users.

The Department of Energy’s INCITE program, which enabled Klimeck to run his codes on Jaguar in the pursuit of more energy-efficient transistors, has promoted transformational advances in science and technology through large allocations of computer time, supporting resources, and data storage since 2003. Through the INCITE program, researchers aim to accelerate breakthroughs in fields in which major advancements would not be probable or even possible without supercomputing.

Says Klimeck, “The exciting thing that keeps me up at night is making sure that we continue to progress and make the things that we build available and useful to others.”