Implementing Molecular Dynamics on Hybrid High Performance Computers – Three-Body Potentials

W. Michael Brown, Masako Yamada
National Center for Computational Sciences, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, Tennessee, USA
Oak Ridge National Laboratory, 2013

   title={Implementing Molecular Dynamics on Hybrid High Performance Computers-Three-Body Potentials},

   author={Brown, W Michael and Yamada, Masako},



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The use of coprocessors or accelerators such as graphics processing units (GPUs) has become popular in scientific computing applications due to their low cost, impressive floating-point capabilities, high memory bandwidth, and low electrical power requirements. Hybrid high-performance computers, defined as machines with nodes containing more than one type of floating-point processor (e.g. CPU and GPU), are now becoming more prevalent due to these advantages. Although there has been extensive research into methods to use accelerators efficiently to improve the performance of molecular dynamics (MD) codes employing pairwise potential energy models, little is reported in the literature for models that include many-body effects. 3-body terms are required for many popular potentials such as MEAM, Tersoff, REBO, AIREBO, Stillinger-Weber, Bond-Order Potentials, and others. Because the per-atom simulation times are much higher for models incorporating 3-body terms, there is a clear need for efficient algorithms usable on hybrid high performance computers. Here, we report a shared-memory force-decomposition for 3-body potentials that avoids memory conflicts to allow for a deterministic code with substantial performance improvements on hybrid machines. We describe modifications necessary for use in distributed memory MD codes and show results for the simulation of water with Stillinger-Weber on the hybrid Titan supercomputer. We compare performance of the 3-body model to the SPC/E water model when using accelerators. Finally, we demonstrate that our approach can attain a speedup of 5:1 with acceleration on Titan for production simulations to study water droplet freezing on a surface.
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