Grand Challenge Program

Erik Draeger with simulation

An image from a 25-picosecond, 1,700-atom Qbox simulation performed on the Vulcan supercomputer shows a lithium-ion cell anode–electrolyte interface. This calculation was carried out in support of a DOE SciDAC project -- 5-year, multi-institution effort: John Pask, PI; Vincenzo Lordi; Mitchell Ong.  Visualization by Liam Krauss.  Pictured, Erik Draeger, Qbox at LLNL.

The Computing Grand Challenge Program allocates significant quantities of institutional computational resources to LLNL researchers to perform cutting edge research on the LC capability computers.

Program Overview

Institutional computing is an essential component of our science and technology investment strategy, and utilizing these computing resources enhances our ability to generate headline scientific and technical accomplishments. The 9th Grand Challenge campaign awarded 73 million core-hours on the Sierra cluster (a 1,944 node, 261.3 TFLOP/s resource) and 730 million core-hours on Vulcan (a 24,576 node, 5,033 TFLOP/s resource). Awards are for unclassified computing resource allocations on institutional capability systems for up to one year. The yearly call for computing resources is open to all Laboratory scientists and engineers. Current Grand Challenge Principal Investigators must reapply for continuation consideration.

Projects receiving awards are expected to demonstrate game-changing advances in a scientific or computational discipline as a result of access to these singular resources. These awards are meant to showcase innovations in computing methodology and/or discovery-class science that is made possible by capability computing. Approximately 15 to 25 proposals are selected each campaign to receive allocations. To be considered, proposals must address a compelling, Grand-Challenge-scale, mission-related problem that pushes the envelope of capability computing while promising unprecedented discoveries in a particular scientific and/or engineering field of research. A successful project would be expected to receive high-level recognition from mission sponsors, the computing community, and the scientific community at large.

Read more about "Computing on a Grand Scale" in our 10th anniversary S&TR article.

Review and Selection Process

Proposal reviews are conducted by the Institutional Grand Challenge Awards Committee (IGCAC), currently chaired by the Chief Computational Scientist in the Physical and Life Sciences Directorate. The IGCAC arranges for both internal and external reviews, with input from the M&IC Program and the Laboratory Directed Research and Development (LDRD) Office. Five criteria are used to evaluate proposals: 

  • Quality and potential impact of proposed science and/or engineering.
  • Significance and impact of proposed utilization of Grand Challenge computing resources.
  • Ability to effectively utilize a high performance institutional computing infrastructure.
  • Quality and extent of external collaborations.
  • Alignment with the LLNL science and technology strategic vision.

Utilization of the computational resources allocated through the Grand Challenge Program are monitored, possibly resulting in mid-year adjustments to the allocations. Grand Challenge allocation award winners are expected to make a presentation on the results of their projects at an LLNL-hosted symposium after the end of each campaign.

Information about Grand Challenge projects and allocations awarded since March 2005 and Grand Challenge utilization data is available as noted below.

Grand Challenge Projects/Allocations

For those with internal site access, all 12 years of Grand Challenge project titles and PI's are available on our Grand Challenge Project page and subpages.

Grand Challenge Utilization Data

For those with internal site access, all Grand Challenge project titles and allocations are in our Utilization Data area.