A friend of mine once pointed to a small icon in his taskbar. He told me that it was a program which utilized his laptopâ€™s unused computing power to perform calculations. While he was idle, his computer (and thousands like it) was doing work and sending the results to a centralized location.
Such is the work of World Community Grid, an organization which uses this kind of distributed computing to dramatically shorten the length of time it takes to make progress in a research project that involves running untold numbers of calculations. For example, by using these programs to help identify potential drug targets for smallpox in 2003, scientists cut computing time down from one year to three months.
Now WCGâ€™s sponsor â€“ IBM â€“ is doing a bit of solar R&D right now, developing thin film cells and solar concentrators. Why not use the WCG technology to give that research a little boost? Thatâ€™s exactly what IBM and Harvard University are working on. They are planning on running thousands of materials and compounds through the system to analyze which ones would make the best solar cells.
Sure, this is investigation by brute force. But the beauty is that with WCG, brute force analyses can be conducted within a reasonable time frame. According to Harvardâ€™s Alan Aspuru-Guzik, this particular project will take 2 years instead of 22. Letâ€™s hope they find something new, though. It would be a pity to find that the best materials are the ones we already have.
If you want to add your computer to the World Community Grid, click here.
Via CNET Green Tech
Image via HowStuffWorks
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