Virginia Tech is celebrating winning this year's Computerworld Honors 21st Century Achievement Award in Science for its Mac-based world-class supercomputer, System X.

The supercomputer is a cluster of 1,100 Power Mac G5s, and is the world's third fastest. It was nominated by Apple CEO Steve Jobs.

Computerworld Honors Program executive director Daniel Morrow said: "Virginia Tech is using information technology to make great strides toward remarkable social achievement in science.

"The materials submitted on behalf of Virginia Tech will enrich the program's growing collection on the Information Age, and help build an accurate record of the truly outstanding achievements being made in these remarkable times."

Engineering dean Hassan Aref said: "While supercomputers have been invaluable, their high cost of often tens to hundreds of millions of dollars has limited their deployment to a few national facilities. Our goal was to develop novel computing architectures to reduce cost, build time, and maintenance complexity. As a result, institutions with relatively modest budgets can now afford to build a premier supercomputer."

As reported yesterday, the Tech was a finalist in the science category. Other finalists included Columbus Zoo for its XRN Technology, CoreTek for "revolutionising the tuneable laser industry, Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center for Scalable/Technical Computing, and Rice University for its Center for High Performance Software Research (HiPerSoft). A total of 250 "innovative applications of technology" were submitted for consideration, entries came from 33 US states, and 26 countries.

System X is currently going through an upgrade process, with the nodes being replaced by Xserve G5s. This move will reduce the size of the supercomputer by a factor of three, and will consume less power than its predecessor. It will also generate less heat, thus reducing cooling requirements.