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U.S. Intelligence Agency Aims to Develop Superconducting Computer

IBM, Raytheon and Northrop will all be working on it.

Denis Balibouse / Reuters

The U.S. intelligence community has launched a multi-year research project to develop a superconducting computer, awarding its first contracts to three major technology companies.

International Business Machines Corp, Raytheon BBN Technologies and Northrop Grumman Corp won the contracts, the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity said Wednesday, without disclosing financial details.

The Cryogenic Computer Complexity program could lead to a new generation of superconducting supercomputers, said the unit of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

“The energy demands of today’s high-performance computers have become a critical challenge for the Intelligence Community that the C3 program aims to address,” IARPA said in a statement. Such computers use massive amounts of energy.

According to ComputerWorld magazine, competition from Europe, Japan and China, which has the world’s fastest computer, is spurring U.S. efforts to develop the next generation of superconducting supercomputers, called exascale.

In November, the Department of Energy awarded Advanced Micro Devices more than $32 million to fund exascale research. AMD Chief Technology Officer Mark Papermaster, said in a blogpost that energy has been the biggest obstacle for exascale computing, or producing a billion billion calculations per second.

“Computers based on superconducting logic integrated with new kinds of cryogenic memory will allow expansion of current computing facilities while staying within space and energy budgets, and may enable supercomputer development beyond the exascale,” Marc Manheimer, C3 program manager at IARPA, said in the statement.

(Reporting by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Richard Chang)

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