A photo of the frontier supercomputer in the USA
The Frontier Supercomputer in the USA
Credit: WikiCommons

Supercomputers are types of computers which work together to act quickly. They are often called high-performance machines. This is because they are able to process data a million times faster than the best desktop computers. Work is still being done to make these machines even faster. They were first made in the 1960s and started with 4 processors running at the same time. Today these computers have tens of thousands of processors working together to solve problems.

Supercomputers are used to make scientific models of systems that need lots of parts running at the same time. For example, to make weather forecasts, or to test how planes and spacecraft deal with air. They are also being used to make artificial intelligence better.

Astronomers use them to create models of the whole Universe. These machines can track the movements of galaxies and stars, and make maps of matter in space. They allow us to try and answer questions about where everything came from, and what might happen in the future.

It takes lots of power to run these machines. They run so quickly that they also make lots of heat, so they must be cooled down to keep them running. The colder the computers are the faster the current can move inside the wires. The high levels of power and cooling needed mean these machines have a large carbon footprint.