By Debbie Maskin, IEN Staff
Here's your chance to do a good green deed with minimal effort. Hook your PC up to the World Community Grid and participate in a solar cell study. Created by a computing team at IBM and researchers at Harvard, the Clean Energy Project is seeking to develop efficient and inexpensive solar cells using organic molecules. These would be cheaper and more flexible than the silicon-based ones typically used to convert sunlight into electricity. The holy grail, in this case, is an organic-based solar cell with an efficiency level of 10%, making it commercially feasible. Current organic solar panels are only about 5% efficient.
Many materials that are sources of renewable energy are composed of large organic molecules containing hundreds of atoms, which can be rearranged in many ways to refine the properties of the desired material. With the aid of World Community Grid, researchers will evaluate the conductive properties of at least 100,000 molecular structures suitable for organic solar cell applications. Instead of having to synthesize and test the molecules in an actual chemical experiment, scientists will design new molecular materials with specific properties in software. Through an enormous number of computations, they will be able to estimate the material's performance as solar cells without having to actually measure the response of the molecules to sunlight. (Photo Courtesy: Physorg.com.Organic solar cell)
Employing molecular mechanics and electronic structure calculations to predict the optical and transport properties of molecules, researchers will create a database of molecular properties for data mining, which will be publicly available. By distributing the computing research across multiple computers, they estimate the project can be completed in 2 years instead of the 22 years it would take to run the analysis using a traditional supercomputer cluster.
To become a member of this virtual laboratory, you will first need to register and then download and install a small program onto your computer. When idle, your computer will request data on a specific project from World Community Grid's server. It will then perform computations on this data, send the results back to the server, and ask the server for a new piece of work. Each computation that your computer performs will help speed the development of efficient and cost-effective solar cells.