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Argonne Leadership
Computing Facility

Gromacs on Polaris

What is Gromacs?

GROMACS is a versatile package to perform molecular dynamics, i.e. simulate the Newtonian equations of motion for systems with hundreds to millions of particles. It is primarily designed for biochemical molecules like proteins, lipids, and nucleic acids that have a lot of complicated bonded interactions, but since GROMACS is extremely fast at calculating the nonbonded interactions (that usually dominate simulations) many groups are also using it for research on non-biological systems, e.g. polymers.


ALCF offers assistance with building binaries and compiling instructions for GROMACS. For questions, contact us at

Building Gromacs

  1. Download latest source code:
  2. tar -xzf gromacs-2022.1.tar.gz
  3. module swap PrgEnv-nvhpc PrgEnv-gnu
  4. module load cudatoolkit-standalone/11.2.2
  5. module load gcc/10.3.0
  6. module load cmake
  7. cd gromacs-2022.1
  8. mkdir build
          -DCMAKE_INSTALL_PREFIX=/path-to/gromacs-2022.1/build \
  10. make –j 8
  11. make install
  12. The installed binary is build/bin/gmx_mpi.

Running Gromacs on Polaris

Prebuilt Gromacs binaries can be found in the directory /soft/applications/Gromacs/gromacs-2022.1.

A sample pbs script follows that will run GROMACS on two nodes, using 4 MPI ranks per node, and each rank with four OpenMP threads. The PME kernel owns one MPI rank and one GPU per node, while the nonbonded kernel uses 3 MPI ranks and 3 GPUs per node.

#PBS -l select=2:system=polaris
#PBS -l place=scatter
#PBS -l walltime=0:30:00
#PBS -q debug
#PBS -l filesystems=home:grand:eagle


module swap PrgEnv-nvhpc PrgEnv-gnu
module load cudatoolkit-standalone/11.2.2


mpirun --np 8 /soft/applications/Gromacs/gromacs-2022.1/gmx_mpi \
      mdrun -gputasks 0123 -nb gpu -pme gpu -npme 1 -ntomp 4 \
      -dlb yes -resethway -pin on -v deffnm step5_1 -g test.log

We strongly suggest that users try combinations of different numbers of nodes, MPI ranks per node, number of GPU tasks/devices, GPU task decomposition between nonbonded and PME kernels, and OMP threads per rank to find the optimal throughput for their particular workload.