The National Science Foundation is reporting on work done by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s Theoretical and Computational Biophysics Group:
For the first time, researchers have visualized the changing atomic structure of a virus by calculating how each of the virus’ one million atoms interacted with each other every femtosecond–or one-millionth-of-a-billionth of a second. A better understanding of viral structures and mechanisms may one day allow researchers to design improved strategies to combat viral infections in plants, animals and even humans.
Led by Klaus Schulten at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the team tapped the high-performance power of the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) processors to accomplish the task. Still, it took about 100 days to generate just 50 nanoseconds of virus activity. Schulten says it would have taken the average desktop computer 35 years to come up with the results.
The simulation revealed key physical properties of satellite tobacco mosaic virus, a very simple, plant-infecting virus. Ultimately, scientists will generate longer simulations from bigger biological entities, but to do so, they need the next generation of supercomputers, the so-called “petascale high-performance computing systems.”
The press release…