IBM and Harvard U launch project to discover lower cost, more efficient solar cells

Boston, MA, Dec. 18, 2008 — IBM and researchers from Harvard University are launching a new World Community Grid project to discover organic materials to create a more efficient and lower cost solar cell. The project will use idle computer power from volunteers to create large supplies of new clean energy.

Current silicon based solar cells are only about 20 per cent efficient and cost about $3 per watt of electricity generated. A newer form of solar powered cells being developed is plastic, not silicon based. It holds great promise, the researchers say, because it is flexible, lightweight and is much less costly to produce.

IBM will also pilot World Community Grid on a new IBM internal cloud, a network of services and software, when the cloud is not being fully used to provide more computing power to the grid. In the future, IBM plans to expand this capability to clients of IBM cloud computing services if they choose, so that they can become part of the research.

“World Community Grid members will make this research possible because of the incredibly large amount of free computing power we will receive,” said Alan Aspuru-Guzik, the principal investigator and a professor in the department of chemistry and chemical biology at Harvard. “It would take us about 100 days of computational time to screen each of the thousands of compounds for electronic properties without the power of World Community Grid. Yet with World Community Grid’s free computing power, augmented by cloud computing, the project is estimated to complete in 2 years what would have taken 22 years to run on a regular scientific cluster.”

The research hopes to discover and isolate organic molecules that when combined can convert more sunlight into electricity and thus produce solar cells much more inexpensively.

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