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Solar Energy

IBM, Harvard Use Distributed Computing to Make Ultra-Powerful Solar Cells


Researchers at IBM and Harvard are using the power of community to create cheap, efficient solar cells. The  Clean Energy Project will use small amounts of computing power from volunteers— like in the SETI project— to run calculations on compounds in the hopes of finding a combination of organic materials that can be used to make cheap, flexible plastic solar cells.

Technology resulting from the experiment could be used to make solar windows, line blankets, and backpacks.

The solar power project will use IBM’s World Community Grid— a large network of volunteer computers with calculating capabilities that rank it as one of the top ten supercomputers in the world. IBM’s number-crunching Grid software runs in the background of volunteer computers as a screensaver. The program will process over 1 million configurations of atoms in the next two years.

According to IBM and Harvard scientists, the cloud-computing experiment will cut the time necessary to run the solar power calculations by 20 years. With potentially game-changing results, perhaps it will inspire other scientific endeavors to harness people-power.

Photo Credit: NREL

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Written By

was formerly the editor of CleanTechnica and is a senior editor at Co.Exist. She has contributed to SF Weekly, Popular Science, Inhabitat, Greenbiz, NBC Bay Area, GOOD Magazine, and more. A graduate of Vassar College, she has previously worked in publishing, organic farming, documentary film, and newspaper journalism. Her interests include permaculture, hiking, skiing, music, relocalization, and cob (the building material). She currently resides in San Francisco, CA.


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