Japan's Fugaku supercomputer, the world's fastest in terms of computing speed, went into full operation Tuesday, earlier than initially scheduled, in the hope that it can be used for research related to the novel coronavirus.

The supercomputer, named after an alternative word for Mount Fuji, became partially operational in April last year to visualize how droplets that could carry the virus spread from the mouth and to help explore possible treatments for COVID-19.

"I hope Fugaku will be cherished by the people as it can do what its predecessor K couldn't, including artificial intelligence (applications) and big data analytics," said Hiroshi Matsumoto, president of the Riken research institute that developed the machine, in a ceremony held at the Riken Center for Computational Science in Kobe, where it is installed.

Fugaku, which can perform over 442 quadrillion computations per second, was originally scheduled to start operating fully in the fiscal year from April.

It will eventually be used in fields such as climate and artificial intelligence applications, and will be used in more than 100 projects, according to state-sponsored Riken.

The supercomputer, which was developed jointly with Fujitsu Ltd., was ranked the world's fastest for computing speed in the twice-yearly U.S.-European TOP500 project for the first time in June, and retained the top spot in November.

The supercomputer also ranked first in three other categories measuring performance in computational methods — industrial use, artificial intelligence applications and big data analytics — making it the world's first supercomputer to dominate the four categories for two consecutive rankings, Riken also said.

Its predecessor, the K supercomputer, was decommissioned in 2019.