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China’s New Supercomputer Is World’s Most Powerful

The 93-petaflop Sunway TaihuLight takes the top ranking

2 min read
A picture of the Sunway TaihuLight computing room.
A picture of the Sunway TaihuLight computing room.
Photo: Jack Dongarra/Science China Press

For the last three years, China has topped the Top500 list of the most powerful supercomputers with its massive Tianhe-2. But today, the Top500 group announced that Tianhe-2 has been ousted by another Chinese supercomputer, the Sunway TaihuLight. The new machine, which is based at the National Supercomputing Center in Wuxi, can perform a key benchmark test called Linpack at 93 petaflops (a thousand trillion floating point operations per second)—nearly three times the speed of the Tianhe-2. 

The new rankings further solidify China’s status as a supercomputing force to be reckoned with. In addition to this new machine, the United States has, for the first time, lost its status as the country with the most systems on the list; China now has 167 systems to the U.S.’s 165.

Unlike the Tianhe-2, which used Intel Xeon chips to take the top spot, the processors inside the Sunway TaihuLight are homegrown. At each of the machine’s 40,960 nodes, the supercomputer uses a new 260-core chip, designed by the Shanghai High Performance IC Design Center.

According to the Top500 site, Sunway TaihuLight will be used for research and engineering work, including weather modeling and advanced manufacturing.

Although supercomputing progress has slowed in recent years, there are still-more-powerful machines on the horizon. The United States, for one, has a batch of new machines in the works. According to a report on Sunway TaihuLight by Top500 team member Jack Dongarra, 2018 could see the arrival of three new U.S. Department of Energy machines, the speediest of which will be Summit, a 200-petaflop supercomputer to be installed at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee.

The Top 10 Supercomputers from the June 2016 Top500.org list

NameCountryTeraflopsPower (kW)
Sunway TaihuLightChina93,01515,371
Tianhe-2China33,86317,808
TitanUnited States17,5908,209
SequoiaUnited States17,1737890
K ComputerJapan10,51012,660
MiraUnited States8,5873,945
TrinityUnited States8,101N/A
Piz DaintSwitzerland6,2712,325
Hazel HenGermany5,640N/A
Shaheen IISaudi Arabia5,5372,834
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An IBM Quantum Computer Will Soon Pass the 1,000-Qubit Mark

The Condor processor is just one quantum-computing advance slated for 2023

4 min read
This photo shows a woman working on a piece of apparatus that is suspended from the ceiling of the laboratory.

A researcher at IBM’s Thomas J. Watson Research Center examines some of the quantum hardware being constructed there.

Connie Zhou/IBM

IBM’s Condor, the world’s first universal quantum computer with more than 1,000 qubits, is set to debut in 2023. The year is also expected to see IBM launch Heron, the first of a new flock of modular quantum processors that the company says may help it produce quantum computers with more than 4,000 qubits by 2025.

This article is part of our special report Top Tech 2023.

While quantum computers can, in theory, quickly find answers to problems that classical computers would take eons to solve, today’s quantum hardware is still short on qubits, limiting its usefulness. Entanglement and other quantum states necessary for quantum computation are infamously fragile, being susceptible to heat and other disturbances, which makes scaling up the number of qubits a huge technical challenge.

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