Blue Waters supercomputer now open for 24/7 science!

released 03.28.13

Today the Blue Waters supercomputer at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign entered production, meaning the behemoth capable of performing quadrillions of calculations every second and working with quadrillions of bytes of data is now crunching numbers around the clock to help scientists and engineers across the country tackle a wide variety of science and engineering challenges.

Because Blue Waters is among the most powerful supercomputers in the world, and is the most powerful supercomputer on a university campus, it enables scientists to carry out research that would be otherwise impossible. The supercomputer, which was built from Cray hardware, operates at a sustained performance of more than 1 quadrillion calculations per second and is capable of peak performance of 11.61 quadrillion calculations per second. [How big are quadrillions? Check out our guide!]

During a launch celebration at the university’s National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA), Gov. Quinn read a proclamation declaring March 28 “Blue Waters Supercomputer Day,” encouraging “everyone in the Land of Lincoln to recognize the important role that innovation and technological progress play in the future of our state.”

Other speakers during the celebration—including University President Robert Easter, Chancellor Phyllis Wise, and Rep. Dan Lipinski, who serves on the House Committee for Science, Space and Technology—also emphasized the role that Blue Waters and the University of Illinois play in science and engineering discoveries.

Cora Marrett, acting director of the National Science Foundation, the federal agency that provided the deployment and operational funding for Blue Waters, emphasized the supercomputer’s potential to fuel discovery and innovation and to benefit society. For example, scientists hope to learn more about how viruses infect the body’s cells and to improve predictions of tornadoes and hurricanes, among other diverse projects.

To mark Blue Waters’ move to full operations, several scientists launched simulation jobs on Blue Waters, showing the audience how the touch of a keyboard or even a tablet or phone allows them to interact with the supercomputer and begin complex research studies:

  • Steven Gottlieb, high-energy/sub-atomic physics, Indiana University
  • James Kinter and Cristiana Stan, atmospheric science, George Mason University
  • Brian O’Shea, astrophysics, Michigan State University
  • Klaus Schulten, biophysics, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

For more on the Blue Waters launch, including a video interview with NCSA Director Thom Dunning, visit the National Science Foundation’s announcement.

For more information about the Blue Waters project, see

Quotes About Blue Waters

Praise for NCSA’s supercomputer

U.S. Senator Richard J. Durbin

Richard J. Durbin - U.S. Senator

“Supercomputers are the gateway to next-generation research, and Blue Waters is among the fastest in the world. Today, the University of Illinois’ position as an international leader in science and engineering is solidified. The National Science Foundation invested $200 million in Blue Waters’ development, and the scientific gains this supercomputer will usher in make every dollar of that investment worthwhile. The federal government has the ability to support cutting-edge science in a way no private donor can. This project is just the latest example of the opportunities created by a strong national commitment to advanced research.”

NSF Acting Director Cora Marrett

Cora Marrett - National Science Foundation Acting Director

“Blue Waters is an example of a high-risk, high-reward research infrastructure project that will enable NSF to achieve its mission of funding basic research at the frontiers of science. Its impact on science and engineering discoveries and innovation, as well as on national priorities, such as health, safety and well-being, will be extraordinary.”

Head of NSF's Directorate for Computer and Information Science and Engineering Farnam Jahanian

Farnam Jahanian - Head of NSF’s Directorate for Computer and Information Science and Engineering

“Blue Waters is a national resource that will allow researchers access to the most powerful computational resources available today, furthering research across all scientific disciplines and enabling the investigation of problems not possible before.”

NSF division director for Advanced Cyberinfrastructure, Alan Blatecky

Alan Blatecky - NSF division director for Advanced Cyberinfrastructure

“With Blue Waters, scientists are beginning already to predict the behavior of complex biological systems, understand how the cosmos evolved after the Big Bang, design new materials at the atomic level, predict the behavior of earthquakes, hurricanes and tornadoes, and simulate complex engineered systems like the power distribution system of airplanes and automobiles.”


Watch videos of the Blue Waters Launch.