An experimental supercomputer made from hardware that can reconfigure itself to tackle different software problems is being built by researchers in Scotland.

The system under construction at the Edinburgh Parallel Computing Centre – part of Edinburgh University, UK – will use Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGA) chips instead of conventional microprocessors.

FPGAs can be reconfigured using software to mimic computer processing equipment that is physically designed to take on specialised tasks. In contrast, conventional microprocessors are designed to act as fixed, general purpose processing devices. Each FPGA chip consists of a block of programmable logic gates that can be electronically organised into different types of circuit.

The FPGA supercomputer will be more powerful and efficient than a conventional system of similar physical size. If it can be made easy enough to program, the researchers behind the machine say it could usher in a new generation of compact and energy-saving supercomputers over the coming decade.

By Will Knight

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