TCD Researchers to Process Data from the World’s Largest Physics Experiment

Posted on: 09 September 2008

Grid-Ireland Group at Trinity participates in the Global Large Hadron Collider Grid

The world’s largest physics experiment, the Large Hadron Collider, designed to recreate the conditions of the early universe shortly after the Big Bang, will be switched on this Wednesday, September 10th.   Early in the morning, scientists at CERN, the European Organisation for Nuclear Research, will start circulating a beam of protons at extremely high speed around a 27km long tunnel near Geneva.

Researchers in the Computer Architecture and Grid Research group in Trinity College Dublin’s School of Computer Science and Statistics are part of the global effort to analyse the data generated by the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) experiment.  In order to provide the computing power necessary to store and process this data, hundreds of sites around the world have joined forces to create a giant computing system, known as a “grid”.  Scientists can move data around the grid and run programmes on any one of the tens of thousands of computers that are connected.

TCD has been involved in the grid since its earliest days.  The Grid-Ireland computer room now contains 768 processors and over 130 terabytes of hard disk space (equivalent to more than 20,000 CDs) which are connected to the worldwide computing grid.  TCD’s resources are being used to store and process data from ATLAS and LHCb, two of the experiments being conducted at the LHC.  To date, TCD computers have done the equivalent of 300,000 hours of processing to support LHC research.

Dr Stephen Childs, Deputy Grid Manager for Grid-Ireland at TCD, explains why the College is involved with grid computing and the LHC: “There are three main benefits to our involvement with the LHC. Firstly, we are making a valuable contribution towards this significant global experiment. Secondly, we can directly support Irish scientists working to analyse LHC data. Thirdly, we are gaining valuable experience with grid technology which we can then pass on to Irish researchers from all disciplines”.

“Although nothing else operates on quite the same scale as the LHC, the technology being developed will provide a framework for online collaborative experiments of all kinds,” Dr Childs added.