The ChASE library for large Hermitian eigenvalue problems

Research topic and goals

In this project we propose to focus on the modern implementation of one of the oldest subspace iteration methods: the Chebyshev Accelerated Subspace Eigensolver (ChASE), recently developed at JSC. ChASE is tailored to compute a fraction not exceeding 20\% of the extremal spectrum of dense Hermitian eigenproblems.

Topic 1: Optimizing ChASE for Bethe-Salpeter computations on multi-GPUs

Accurate predictions for the interaction of light with matter are crucial, for instance, to design novel optoelectronic or photovoltaic materials and to understand their fundamental properties. To this end, atomistic first-principles methods are capable of computing absorption spectra or the complex frequency-dependent dielectric function. More specifically, by solving the Bethe-Salpeter equation for the optical polarization function, computational materials scientists can take excitonic effects into account when simulating optical properties of real materials. However, for modern complex systems such as lanthanum-aluminum oxide or indium oxide, this approach leads to large dense matrices with sizes reaching up to 400,000.

To compute experimentally relevant exciton binding energies, only a fraction of the spectrum, corresponding to the lowest eigenpairs of these matrices, are of interest (Fuchs et al. 2008). Due to its large computational cost, direct diagonalization using out-of-the-box libraries is not a workable option. In these instances iterative schemes provide a feasible alternative route, allowing to efficiently compute the lowest portion of the eigenspectrum by exploiting the massively parallel architecture of modern supercomputers.

In this project we propose to test and customize ChASE, so as to facilitate the computation of the desired lowest eigenpairs of large dense eigenproblems on hybrid architectures. The positive outcome of the project will allow to draw conclusions with implications for electron-hole separation in solar cell absorbers and the overall optical properties of a material in the vicinity of the absorption onset. If this part of the project is successful, we envision exploring a folded-spectrum method to also access the high-energy range of the spectrum, which may become important to detect, for instance, Fano resonances.

Topic 2: Scaling the ChASE for large Hermitian eigenvalue problems

State of the art eigensolvers used in Computational Science and Engineering present evidence of widely varying performance and serious limitations when it comes to scalability over thousands of cores. Scalability is often an issue intrinsic to the algorithms granularity which determines the amount of parallelism available. Ultimately, though, it is the rigid structure of the libraries imposing limitations on the optimal use of the hierarchical structure of the caches that creates serious restrictions to the level of scalability these routines can achieve.

An appealing alternative to traditional algorithms for dense and sparse problems is a class of modern iterative eigensolvers based on subspace iteration with spectral projection. Thanks to their simple algorithmic structure and extended granularity, this class of algorithms are experiencing a revival as an alternative to traditional dense solvers. Moreover, at the sub-routine level the internal tasks can be designed so as to use almost exclusively low level kernels from specialized libraries, such as BLAS, guaranteeing performance portability.

The objective of this topic is to port the ChASE library to the K-Computer, generalize its current parallelization scheme, and extend its applicability by supporting the solution of large and sparse Hermitian eigenvalue problems.


  • Port and validate the robustness of the reference version of the ChASE library on the K-Computer;
  • Extend the reference implementation of ChASE to distributed memory platforms by porting the new hybrid parallelization of the Chebyshev filter;
  • Extend the hybrid parallelization to the Rayleigh-Ritz projection, QR factorization and residual computation;
  • Extend the distributed memory parallelization to sparse matrices;
  • Testing the scalability of ChASE when solving extremely large Hermitian eigenvalue problems extracted from specific applications.

Results for 2015/2016

Topic 1

This project was discussed for the first time during the JLESC meeting in December of 2015 in Bonn. Since then, both PIs set up the necessary testing infrastructure which involved creating an account for A. Schleife on JURECA, a 23 GB Globus file transfer from Blue Waters to JURECA, and compiling the existing conjugate-gradient eigensolver (KSCG) based code on JURECA. The transferred files were used to extract a number of matrices of increasing size to be diagonalized outside the Jena BSE code by using the existing ChASE eigensolver for comparison with the KSCG solver. We completed these steps and made sure to check the correctness of the solutions for the relative matrices. Already at this stage the ChASE solver showed to outperform KSCG out-of-the-box despite operating in sub-optimal conditions. These results were presented at the JLESC workshop in Lyon, France (2016).

Topic 2

Will start in 2017

Results for 2016/2017

Topic 1

In a second phase, the ChASE library underwent a restructuring of the parallelization scheme in order to accommodate for a new paradigm based on MPI+CUDA. The initial effort concentrated on re-designing only the Chebyshev filter, which is the most computationally intensive routine of the ChASE solver.The rewriting effort was successfully tested on the JURECA nodes hosting 2 x K40 NVIDIA GPU cards using the same set of matrices created in the first phase of the project. The tests, run over up to 64 computing nodes showed the potential for ChASE to scale over hundreds of computing nodes and making use of multi-GPU cards per each node. The results were presented at the JLESC workshop in Kobe, Japan (2016).

In the following phase, working accounts were opened on Blue Waters for the JSC team members. The JSC and UIUC teams met for a week in order to start integrating the ChASE solver into the Jena BSE code. First the ChASE solver was templated to work both in single (SP) and double precision (DP). Numerical tests showed that the Jena BSE does not require eigenpairs with a high precision so that ChASE can just operate in SP. The second step of this integration was successful carried out on one computing node showing that, already at this stage, Jena BSE + ChASE is about five times faster than Jena BSE using the KSCG solver. In the next step we will fully integrate the MPI+CUDA version of ChASE and run tests on Blue Waters. Eventually we plan to demonstrate the potential of the new solver by tackling a physical system of unprecedented size which will require thousands of computing nodes.

Topic 2

Just started.

Visits and meetings

Topic 1

  • March 3 – 11 2017: Jan Winkelmann and Edoardo Di Napoli visited Andre` Schleife in Urbana, Champaign. During the visit several important details were tackled, paving the way to a promising integration of the ChASE library into Jena BSE code.

Topic 2

No extra visits or meeting are foreseen besides the bi-annual JLESC meetings.

Compute resource needs

Test account on K-Computer in the first phase of the project. We apply for computational resources of the K-Computer in the Category of General Trial Use. In the final phase of the project, it will be necessary to obtain computing time compatible with the solution of very large eigenproblems on the whole K-Computer. For this purpose, we apply for computational resources as a General Use project.

Impact and publications

None yet.

    Future plans

    Topic 1

    The next step is to fully integrate a hybrid parallelization of the ChASE library into the Jena BSE code and test scalability and efficiency of the ChASE library on Blue Waters when used to solve eigenproblems of increasing size and complexity. This plan include a full customization of ChASE parameters to adapt seamlessly to the Jena BSE requirements.

    Topic 2

    As part of a positive outcome for this project we expect to publish a number of new scientific papers. One such publication will focus on the porting and optimization of the ChASE library to the K-Computer, while additional papers will report new scientific results made accessible by the algorithmic improvements. We plan to tackle eigenproblems arising from distinct areas of quantum chemistry, materials science, and fundamental physics. For instance, the calculation of roto-vibrational energy spectrum of small molecules requires the solution of eigenproblems, representing the Schr"{o}dinger equation, with matrix size amounting to several millions. Similarly, in lattice quantum chromodynamics (QCD) simulations, we plan to approach the computation of the spectrum of the (sparse) Wilson-Dirac operator by solving eigenproblems with matrix sizes from about one million to about one billion. These are just examples of the type scientific applications where the use of the ChASE library can be expected to lead to several publications.

    • PHASE I (Months 1-12): Porting of the reference version of ChASE library on the K-Computer, checking its robustness; extension to distributed memory and hybrid parallelization schemes, and sparse matrices.
    • PHASE II (Months 12-24): Applications to the scientific applications; testing the scalability of ChASE in solving extremely large eigenvalue problems.


    1. Fuchs, F., C. Rödl, A. Schleife, and F. Bechstedt. 2008. “Efficient \MathcalO(N^2) Approach to Solve the Bethe-Salpeter Equation For Excitonic Bound States.” Phys. Rev. B 78: 085103. doi:10.1103/PhysRevB.78.085103.
        author = {Fuchs, F. and R\"odl, C. and Schleife, A. and Bechstedt, F.},
        doi = {10.1103/PhysRevB.78.085103},
        journal = {Phys. Rev. B},
        numpages = {13},
        pages = {085103},
        title = {Efficient $\mathcal{O}({N}^{2})$ approach to solve the Bethe-Salpeter equation for
            excitonic bound states},
        url = {},
        volume = {78},
        year = {2008}