IBM (NYSE: IBM) and researchers
from Harvard University are launching a new World Community Grid project to
discover organic materials to create a more efficient and lower cost solar cell.
The path-breaking effort will use idle computer power from volunteers to create
large supplies of new clean energy.
Clean energy sources like solar could supply a vast amount of the world's energy
and help eliminate our dependence on fossil fuels, the cause of global warming,
if they were more efficient and could be developed at lower cost to make them
more widely available.
Current silicon based solar cells are only about 20 per cent efficient and
cost about $3 per watt of electricity generated. A newer form of solar powered
cells being developed is plastic not silicon based. It holds great promise because
it is flexible, lightweight and most significant is much less costly to produce.
IBM will also pilot World Community Grid on a new IBM internal cloud, a network
of services and software, when the cloud is not being fully used to provide
more computing power to the grid. In the future, IBM plans to expand this capability
to clients of IBM cloud computing services if they choose, so that they can
become part of this humanitarian research.
"World Community Grid members will make this research possible because
of the incredibly large amount of free computing power we will receive,"
said Alan Aspuru-Guzik, the principal investigator and a professor in the Department
of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, at Harvard. "It would take us about
100 days of computational time to screen each of the thousands of compounds
for electronic properties without the power of World Community Grid. Yet with
World Community Grid's free computing power, augmented by cloud computing, the
project is estimated to complete in 2 years what would have taken 22 years to
run on a regular scientific cluster."
The research hopes to discover and isolate organic molecules that when combined
can convert more sunlight into electricity and thus produce solar cells much
"IBM believes that this important new study powered by World Community
Grid could provide the planet with a smarter solution to the problem of low
cost solar technology," Stanley Litow, Vice President, IBM, Corporate Citizenship
and Corporate Affairs and President of the IBM International Foundation. "This
project marks an expanded direction to help our society by reducing our dependence
on fossil fuels to make a lasting impact by hopefully finding new sources of
World Community Grid is the largest public humanitarian grid in existence with
more than 413,000-plus members who represent more than 200 countries and links
to more than one million computers. It is the volunteers that help make the
difference because as each one shares their computer time, scientists are able
to conduct their research faster. For example,
- The Nutritious Rice for the World has already returned 10 million transactions
and 9,000 years of compute time.
- The AfricanClimate@Home just completed its data collection and research
analysis will now begin.
- Help Defeat Cancer received a $2.5 million grant from NIH to further deploy
its system for cancer research.
- FightAIDS@Home completed five years of HIV/AIDS research in just six months.
To become of member of World Community Grid and donate unused computer time,
individuals register on www.worldcommunitygrid.org and install a free, small,
secure software program onto their computers. When computers are idle, data
is requested from World Community Grid's server. These computers then perform
the computations, and send the results back to the server, prompting it for
a new piece of work. A screen saver will tell individuals when their computers
are being used.