Speaking to HumanIPO, Ton Engbersen, project leader of the DOME project - working on SKA supporting technologies - at IBM Research, revealed research currently being undertaken by IBM, in partnership with ASTRON and SKA SA is pivotal to whether the SKA will be able to enter operation.
Technologies available worldwide do not currently make it possible to store and analyse the large amount of data that will be produced by SKA, which is to be the largest and most sensitive telescope in the world.
“If we build the SKA based on current technologies available it would require 7 gigawatts or roughly 2-3 nuclear power plants,” he said. “On top of this the energy bill annually would be about US$7 billion. So it's not feasible with current technology.
“It's simply not feasible with current technology anywhere in the world.”
For this reason, the DOME project is developing a technology roadmap, which it is to present to the SKA board by 2016, when construction of the telescope is due to start.
The research is made possible by a €32.9 million (US$) funding grant by the government of the Netherlands, which will support the work of the DOME team over the five year term, the project having started in 2011.
Furthermore, the grant has created a further 10 positions for scientists to join the DOME research, although the team hopes more organisations will be enticed to participate in the collaborative research platform.
“The €32.9 million over 5 years is a strong endorsement by the Dutch government for DOME. They not only expect innovative research, but also economic growth for the Providence of Drenthe. In fact, we are currently hiring 10 scientists to join the project,” said Engbersen.
“Once we have fulfilled all of the open positions we will be running at the speed of light or as close as humanly possible,” he added.
With regard to the organisations involved in the project, Engbersen noted that the team is increasing, thanks in part to the collaboration platform IBM and ASTRON have launched.
“The collaboration includes a user platform where organizations from around the world can jointly investigate emerging technologies in high-performance, energy-efficient computing, nanophotonics, and data streaming.
“In addition to SKA South Africa, four additional organisations are expected to join in the coming weeks including universities and small and medium-sized businesses located in the Netherlands. So if anything, we hope more partners join the user platform.”