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Science & Education
ORNL Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) brings together the finest experimental researchers and theorists and arms them with the best analytical and computational tools. Their mission—to tackle the toughest scientific problems faced by America today, and to develop technologies that will enrich and protect humankind. The Challenge

Supernova explosion.
ORNL research teams have always used the highest resolution desktop displays and state-of-the-art visualization techniques, including an immersive cave configuration. But there was a dire need for a larger display that could be viewed simultaneously by teams of scientists. Creating a powerwall required synchronizing a nine-by-three array of projectors and applying the power of 64-bit computing to achieve the ultimate in performance and interactivity. ORNL continuously pushes technology to the limits, so the graphics platform for the powerwall had to have the best performance and architectural features possible.

The Solution

35M pixel powerwall.
The finest minds and the finest computers aren't enough to get the job done. To extract insights from terabytes of research data and computation results, scientists at ORNL rely on NVIDIA® graphics solutions to drive a state-of-the-art powerwall display. Unprecedented image quality and real-time interactivity are enabling discoveries that will shape our lives and our world in this new millennium.

ORNL selected NVIDIA graphics to drive the output from a cluster of 64 rendering nodes to a 30x8-foot powerwall. The 27 projectors are arranged in a 9x3 array, each providing 3500 lumens for an incredibly bright display. Displaying 11,520 by 3,072 pixels or a total of 35M pixels, the wall offers a tremendous amount of visual detail, more than 40 times the resolution available with other display technologies. NVIDIA met all of the stringent requirements for ORNL: high pixel throughput, scalability within a computing cluster, and the unified driver architecture. With NVIDIA, ORNL has been able to push the limits on scientific visualization.

The Impact

The scientific problems that ORNL studies are diverse and challenging; from studying the world population, an exploding star, or the human genome. To be able to fully investigate and learn about all these universal issues, scientists are required to first see the subject to make first-hand observations. Research is greatly accelerated by the visualization ability by the powerwall and NVIDIA technology.

The powerwall does not only aid researchers, but also benefits the public. A popular part of the ORNL tour, the powerwall is used to educate visitors about the work being done at the laboratory. If a picture is worth a thousand words, how many words is the powerwall worth? We'll have to leave that question to the team at ORNL.

More Information
For more information about Oak Ridge National Laboratory, please visit:

For more information about Visualization at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, please contact Sean Ahern:

Images courtesy of ORNL.