IBM and Harvard University have teamed up for the Clean Energy Project. The goal of this project is to use “IBM’s World Community Grid of interconnected personal computing power to study next-generation solar power and fuel cell materials.” Through this partnership, in 2 years they will complete 20 years worth of computing on plastic-based solar cells. To understand why leaving your computer on will help this project, read the rest of Dan Shapley’s story.
There’s enough solar power showered on the Earth in a day to power all humanity’s endeavors for decades, but harnessing it cheaply is the ongoing challenge. The promise of clean solar energy is so appealing because it could replace dirty coal, the primary source of greenhouse gas emissions (not to mention toxic mercury, acid rain and smog); oil-based transportation; and controversial nuclear power. Storing solar energy in fuel cells is one key, while improving the efficiency of solar cells that gather energy is another.
To participate, download The World Community Grid software, and start running the program. It essentially acts like a screen saver when your computer is not in use. By drawing on the computing power of thousands of idle computers, the complex computations will be completed quickly enough to fast-forward the clean energy revolution.
Here’s how Harvard describes its program:
We are living in the Age of Energy. The fossil fuel based economy of the present must give way to the renewable energy based economy of the future. Getting there is the grandest challenge humanity faces. Chemistry can help meet this challenge by discovering new materials that efficiently harvest solar radiation, store energy for later use, and reconvert the stored energy when needed.
The Clean Energy project uses computational chemistry and the willingness of people to help look for the best molecules possible for: organic photovoltaics to provide inexpensive solar cells, polymers for the membranes used in fuel cells for electricity generation, and how best to assemble the molecules to make those devices. By helping us search combinatorially among thousands of potential systems, you can contribute to this effort.
If you don’t plan to participate, then please shut off (and better yet, unplug) your computer when not in use. Here’s why