Publications / Report

Load-balancing techniques for a parallel electromagnetic particle-in-cell code

Plimpton, Steven J.; Seidel, David B.; Pasik, Michael F.; Coats, Rebecca S.

QUICKSILVER is a 3-d electromagnetic particle-in-cell simulation code developed and used at Sandia to model relativistic charged particle transport. It models the time-response of electromagnetic fields and low-density-plasmas in a self-consistent manner: the fields push the plasma particles and the plasma current modifies the fields. Through an LDRD project a new parallel version of QUICKSILVER was created to enable large-scale plasma simulations to be run on massively-parallel distributed-memory supercomputers with thousands of processors, such as the Intel Tflops and DEC CPlant machines at Sandia. The new parallel code implements nearly all the features of the original serial QUICKSILVER and can be run on any platform which supports the message-passing interface (MPI) standard as well as on single-processor workstations. This report describes basic strategies useful for parallelizing and load-balancing particle-in-cell codes, outlines the parallel algorithms used in this implementation, and provides a summary of the modifications made to QUICKSILVER. It also highlights a series of benchmark simulations which have been run with the new code that illustrate its performance and parallel efficiency. These calculations have up to a billion grid cells and particles and were run on thousands of processors. This report also serves as a user manual for people wishing to run parallel QUICKSILVER.