Fugaku in the News: Simulations Show Humidifiers Could Limit COVID-19 Spread

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Scientists using the world’s most powerful supercomputer, the Arm-based Fugaku system at Japan’s  Riken Center for Computational Science, have generated findings that relate humidity to the spread of coronavirus: the more humid the air, the lesser the aerosol spread.

In a story published by Reuters yesterday, it was reported that the “supercomputer showed that humidity can have a large effect on the dispersion of virus particles, pointing to heightened coronavirus contagion risks in dry, indoor conditions during the winter months. The finding suggests that the use of humidifiers may help limit infections during times when window ventilation is not possible, according to a study released on Tuesday by research giant Riken and Kobe University.”

Researchers modeled the dispersion of virus-like particles used Fugaku to simulate the emission and flow of virus-like particles from infected people in indoor environments. The results: when humidity is lower than 30 percent there were more than twice as many aerosolized particles than if humidity is greater than 60 percent.

Fugaku was ranked no. 1 last June on the Top500 listing of the world’s fastest supercomputers turning in a LINPACK benchmark result of 415.5 petaflops, outperforming Summit, the former no. 1 (now no. 2) system housed at the U.S. Dept. of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Lab, by a factor of 2.8x. The system is powered by Fujitsu’s 48-core A64FX SoC and is the first ARM-based system to take the no. 1 ranking. Fugaku, which has 158,976 nodes, blew through the exascale milestone in single precision calculations often used in machine learning and AI applications. On the HPL-AI benchmark measuring HPC performance on ML/DL workloads, Fugaku registered peak performance of 1.45 exaflops, according to Jack Dongarra, Distinguished Professor of Computer Science at the University of Tennessee.

Fugaku supercomputer at Riken

According to the Reuters story, Kobe University study also indicated that masks are better at preventing spread of aerosols than plastic face shields, and that diners are more likely to become infected by people next to them than they are by people across the table. The coronavirus is tenacious: the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last month announced that the pathogen can remain in the air for hours.