IBM, Harvard exploit World Grid for solar research

Researchers from IBM and Harvard are teaming up to produce cheaper, more efficient solar cells - by using the computing power from a network of idle PCs around the world to screen organic compounds for certain electronic properties.

The Financial Times'  tech blog says project is the latest by the World Community Grid, a powerful but relatively unknown IBM venture that makes use of grid computing.

The World Community Grid is running at an average of 179 Teraflops, roughly equivalent to the eleventh most powerful supercomputer on earth. (The current heavyweight, IBM's Roadrunner, runs at more than 1 Petaflop or 1,000 trillion calculations per second, the blog explains.)

It goes on, "Grid members sign up and download a small application. Then, when their computers go idle, instead of a screensaver coming on, the Grid takes over [and it] becomes a node in a worldwide supercomputer."

IBM launched the Grid four years ago, and has invested US$5 million worth of resources in the project. Already, it is being used to help cure cancer and fight AIDS. Stanley Litow, IBM's VP for corporate citizenship and affairs, was quoted saying, "The potential of the WCG is really monumental."

For instance, since the launch of the cancer research project last November, Grid members have contributed almost 19,627 years of run time, returning 24,502,692 results, or about 16% of the work.