Most experts agree that current barriers to supercomputing speeds — which are approaching hundreds of teraflops — will fall. A teraflop equals 1 trillion floating point operations per second.

The Q supercomputer eventually will be able to surpass 100 teraflops, Los Alamos National Laboratory spokesperson Jim Danneskiold says. “We don’t see a significant barrier, and we’ve announced plans for 200 teraflops,” he said.

In addition, IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Cray and others have found markets for machines that combine their computing power to perform research in the defense, biological and industrial arenas, pushing supercomputing speeds “faster than anyone can realize.”