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KNOXVILLE – In the world’s most powerful supercomputer rankings, Japan takes the number one spot, grabbing the title away from its Chinese competitor.

Built by Fujitsu Co. and installed at the Riken Advanced Institute for Computational Science, “Computer K” returns Japan to the Top500 list for the first time in seven years.

“We knew the Japanese were building a computer of this size, but we didn’t know they would release it at this time,” said Jack Dongarra, distinguished professor of computer science and the director of the Innovative Computing Laboratory. “They still have another fifteen percent of the machine to add, but it’s working so there’s no reason to wait to start using it.”

Dongarra creates the annual Top500 fastest supercomputer list, which is compiled by researchers at the University of Mannheim in Germany, the University of Tennessee and the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center, which is affiliated with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Performing more than 8 quadrillion (8,000 trillion) calculations per second, the government-funded machine is more powerful than the next five computer systems in the Top500 list. K is three times faster than the number two supercomputer designed by China’s National University of Defense Technology.

There are five U.S. supercomputers in the top-10 ranking, including the Jaguar at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, which ranks third on the list.

In an effort to position Japan among the supercomputer leaders, the Japanese government is investing more than $1.25 billion in the K computer project, which aims to increase the competitiveness of Japan by providing a powerful computational tool to develop breakthroughs in drugs, materials and new technologies.

The K Computer packs 68,544 processors each equipped with eight cores for a total of 548,352 electronic “brains.” At full capacity, it aims to have 640,000 electronic “brains,” giving the supercomputer enough power to cut the time required to run a simulation of a beating human heart reacting to new medicine from two years to two days, according to a Wall Street Journal article.

The K Computer is more than 200 times more powerful than the Earth Simulator, a Japanese supercomputer that last held the top spot in 2004.