Harvard Recruiting PC Power to Find Better Solar-Panel Materials

 
 
By Chris Preimesberger  |  Posted 2008-12-08 Email Print this article Print
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Harvard and IBM are reaching out to find and utilize as many unused computing cycles as possible to complete some time-consuming energy projects. In exchange, the owner of a PC being utilized in the grid network can enjoy the satisfaction of helping contribute to a good scientific cause, as well as make a number of new friends in the process: The World Community Grid has become a community of its own.

Harvard University has been recruiting students since the 17th century. On Dec. 8, however, the prestigious institution began recruiting people with computing power to help out in research projects that could benefit mankind in big ways.

When a personal computer is on and connected to the Internet but sitting idle, a portion of that computing power can be utilized automatically for specific projects by an outside network-provided, of course, that the PC owner has given permission and has downloaded a piece of software to do the work.

It's long been a fact that many computers and their owners around the world unwittingly contribute as "bots" to illicit networks through the use of secretly placed spyware agents. The Harvard project resembles such scenarios, but this project-which runs on the IBM-sponsored World Community Grid-is strictly on the up and up.

Intel is developing self-powered sensors for IT devices. Read more here. 

Harvard and the WCG are reaching out to find and utilize as many unused computing cycles as possible. In exchange, the owner of a PC being utilized in the grid network can enjoy the personal satisfaction of helping contribute to a good scientific cause, as well as make a number of new friends in the process: The World Community Grid has become a community of its own.


Job No. 1: Finding specific polymers that can be used to make newer, more powerful solar panel cells for home and/or commercial electrical use. That project kicked off Dec. 5 with a little champagne celebration at the Cambridge, Mass., office of Alan Aspuru-Guzik, a chemistry researcher at the university and coordinator of the project.

Right Combination of Polymer Molecules Sought

Scientists say the project will allow it to discover the right combination of organic molecules that can be used to manufacture plastic solar cells that are less expensive and more flexible than silicon-based ones that are typically used to turn sunlight into electricity.

"People connected to the grid are helping us to identify the types of [polymer] molecules that can be used in building the right kind of plastics for solar panels," Aspuru-Guzik told me.

"The way we do it normally is not now cost-efficient, although the materials are cheap because it's plastic. But if we can get a whole lot of people to allow us to use their computers on this grid for this purpose, we can sort out the chaff and find the molecules faster and in a more fruitful manner."



 
 
 
 
Chris Preimesberger Chris Preimesberger was named Editor-in-Chief of Features & Analysis at eWEEK in November 2011. Previously he served eWEEK as Senior Writer, covering a range of IT sectors that include data center systems, cloud computing, storage, virtualization, green IT, e-discovery and IT governance. His blog, Storage Station, is considered a go-to information source. Chris won a national Folio Award for magazine writing in November 2011 for a cover story on Salesforce.com and CEO-founder Marc Benioff, and he has served as a judge for the SIIA Codie Awards since 2005. In previous IT journalism, Chris was a founding editor of both IT Manager's Journal and DevX.com and was managing editor of Software Development magazine. His diverse resume also includes: sportswriter for the Los Angeles Daily News, covering NCAA and NBA basketball, television critic for the Palo Alto Times Tribune, and Sports Information Director at Stanford University. He has served as a correspondent for The Associated Press, covering Stanford and NCAA tournament basketball, since 1983. He has covered a number of major events, including the 1984 Democratic National Convention, a Presidential press conference at the White House in 1993, the Emmy Awards (three times), two Rose Bowls, the Fiesta Bowl, several NCAA men's and women's basketball tournaments, a Formula One Grand Prix auto race, a heavyweight boxing championship bout (Ali vs. Spinks, 1978), and the 1985 Super Bowl. A 1975 graduate of Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif., Chris has won more than a dozen regional and national awards for his work. He and his wife, Rebecca, have four children and reside in Redwood City, Calif.Follow on Twitter: editingwhiz
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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