A US university has created a cluster of 36 Apple Xserve G5s to tackle complex problems in physics and computer science.

University College Santa Cruz's G5 cluster will be used for research on magnetic phase transitions and protein folding as well as other research projects, and to play the ancient Chinese game of Go, which has proven to be much more challenging to computer scientists than chess.

The cluster was created by university alumni David Doshay and professor Charlie McDowell. Doshay said he plans to add more nodes to the cluster over time to increase its computational power. "Even 72 processors is limiting for these kinds of problems, and there is plenty of room in the racks for expansion."

This latest Xserve cluster is one of a growing number. Xserve users already include the research and development arm of the Australian Defence Force who invested in a 16-node cluster earlier this year to accelerate its research. Another is the massive installation of 1,566 Xserve G5s used by the US military.

Also benefiting from Xserve clustering technology are the Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrated Genomics and biotechnology firm Genentech.

However, the cluster that helped Apple to gain notoriety in the supercomputer environment, Virginia Tech, has fallen of the radar recently. The Virginia Tech cluster that propelled Apple to number three in the list of the world's most powerful supercomputers, was not ranked in the latest list because it is not up and running while the Tech complete work on the cluster of Xserve G5s that will replace its cluster of G5 Power Macs.