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Dr. James P. Durbano: Supercomputer-Caliber Nanophotonic Simulations from Desktop PCs

by Editor1 last modified June 05, 2007 - 11:51

Dr. James Durbano, an assistant professor at the University of Delaware and Chief Hardware Architect at EM Photonics, plans to offer low-cost, high-performance tools and algorithms to speed nano-photonic simulations. Tools could power supercomputer-caliber computations with just desktop PCs. speaks with Dr. Durbano.

Dr. James P. Durbano:  Supercomputer-Caliber Nanophotonic Simulations from Desktop PCs

Output of software simulation computing frequency contours for a two-dimensional photonic-crystal (PhC) structure with square lattice of air columns in silicon. EM Photonics

“My research aims to dramatically decrease simulation times in a variety of fields, such as nano-photonics. This [research will] result in faster time-to-market as well as more advanced and sizeable simulations,” Dr. Durbano told  “We will be releasing a major update to our FREE GPU-based simulation tools in 2007.”

Details on Dr. Dubano's Powerful PC Modeling Tools
In a 2006 presentation, Dr. Durbano explained his work this way:

“We have developed the underlying techniques and technologies to produce supercomputer performance from a standard desktop workstation for modeling and simulation applications. This is accomplished through the combined use of graphics processing units (GPUs), field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs), and standard microprocessors.

“Each of these platforms has unique strengths and weaknesses but, when used in concert, can rival the computational power of high-performance computing (HPC) solutions. By adding a powerful GPU and our custom designed FPGA card to a commodity desktop PC, we have created simulation tools capable of replacing massive computer clusters with a single workstation. We have targeted a variety of applications for this platform ranging from computational electromagnetics and linear algebra to image processing and synthetic aperture radar analysis. Benchmarks of our initial solvers have shown that we can rival the speed of a 150-node PC cluster from a single workstation.

Reference from Dr. Durbano's paper delivered at: University of Delaware Computational Science Day 2006 (02/2006), Accelerated Modeling and Simulation with a Desktop Supercomputer

While naysayers might have discouraged many, Dr. Durbano has instead drawn inspiration from them. “[They] insisted that what we were attempting could not be achieved. However, we have consistently proven them wrong and our acceleration rates are going up and up,” he says. “I am excited to see how hardware platforms, such as FPGAs and GPUs, will evolve and provide better support for computational accelerators.”

More About Dr. James Durbano
Currently, Dr. Durbano continues to explore the acceleration of more computationally intense algorithms in a variety of fields. “I believe that there will be custom acceleration tools for many applications, simply because there will never be the perfect processor for every application,” he explains. “For the most computationally intense applications, such a platform is needed in order to continue pushing the simulation tools to the next level.”

Dr. Durbano received his Ph.D. from the University of Delaware for his ground breaking work with hardware-based computational electromagnetic accelerators. As Chief Hardware Architect for EM Photonics, Inc., he oversees the Hardware Division in their development of hardware-based solvers for computationally intensive applications, including electromagnetic wave propagation, circuit simulation, synthetic aperture radar, genetic algorithms, fluid dynamics, and finite element methods. He serves as a reviewer for numerous journals, conferences, and publishing houses, including Addison-Wesley, IEEE Microwave and Wireless Components Letters, and IEE Proceedings Computers & Digital Techniques. Dr. Durbano has numerous conference and journal publications, patent applications, and a book chapter in this field.

To learn more about Dr. Durbano and his work.