Don’t know what Distributed Computing is? It’s when a very large computational problem is broken down into very small parts and farmed out to thousands of personal computers. Each PC works on their separate part of the problem and then sends the answers back to the program where the individual solutions are combined. A distributed computing project works in the background on your PC, its active when your computer is on but not really doing any heavy computational work, but it steps aside when you’re taxing the CPU, like if you’re encoding videos or playing a game. I’ve been part of several distributed computing projects over the last 10 years – first with [email protected] and now with Stanford University’s [email protected] project, which is a research program analyzing how proteins fold – the results are being used in cancer and Alzheimer’s research. (I’m a proud member of Team 33 – the #1 Team of folders in the world – [H]ardOCP.)
So why am I telling you about distributed computing in a blog about Alternative Energy? Well, I just heard about a new Distributed Computing project called The Clean Energy Project being developed by Harvard University. While the Clean Energy Project is not yet available to the general public (and there’s really not much to see yet at their web site), when the project goes live you will be able to download and run a screensaver that “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.”
In other words, you can use your computer to help the researchers search thru all the different combinations of molecules that can be used for organic solar cells and fuel cells, helping to find the best combinations of molecules for efficiency. It definitely sounds like an exciting project and hopefully will go live soon. When it does, I’ll make sure and let you all know. Sounds like I’ll be shifting some of my computers over from [email protected] to [email protected]
12/6/08 – Update – the [email protected] site is now live. You can download the program and start contibuting.