Massively parallel first-principles simulation of electron dynamics in materials

Erik W. Draeger, Xavier Andrade, John A. Gunnels, Abhinav Bhatele, André Schleife, Alfredo A. Correa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We present a highly scalable, parallel implementation of first-principles electron dynamics coupled with molecular dynamics (MD). By using optimized kernels, network topology aware communication, and by fully distributing all terms in the time-dependent Kohn–Sham equation, we demonstrate unprecedented time to solution for disordered aluminum systems of 2000 atoms (22,000 electrons) and 5400 atoms (59,400 electrons), with wall clock time as low as 7.5 s per MD time step. Despite a significant amount of non-local communication required in every iteration, we achieved excellent strong scaling and sustained performance on the Sequoia Blue Gene/Q supercomputer at LLNL. We obtained up to 59% of the theoretical sustained peak performance on 16,384 nodes and performance of 8.75 Petaflop/s (43% of theoretical peak) on the full 98,304 node machine (1,572,864 cores). Scalable explicit electron dynamics allows for the study of phenomena beyond the reach of standard first-principles MD, in particular, materials subject to strong or rapid perturbations, such as pulsed electromagnetic radiation, particle irradiation, or strong electric currents.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)205-214
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Parallel and Distributed Computing
StatePublished - Aug 1 2017


  • Blue Gene/Q
  • Electron dynamics
  • Explicit time integration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Theoretical Computer Science
  • Hardware and Architecture
  • Computer Networks and Communications
  • Artificial Intelligence


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