IBM Wants Your PC For Solar Power Research

In an effort to discover materials for cheap but efficient solar cells, IBM and researchers From Harvard University have launched a distributed computing initiative called the Clean Energy Project and are asking for people to participate in the program. 

Using idle computer power from volunteers to crunch data, the project will complete in 2 years what would have taken 22 years using internal computing resources. The project will be run via World Community Grid – a community of over 413,000 members with collectively more than one million computers; the largest public computing grid undertaking projects to benefit humanity.

The Clean Energy project will search for the best selection of materials from thousands of possibilities in order to provide inexpensive polymer solar cells.

Polymer solar cells are made of plastics rather than silicon. They are flexible, lightweight and  much less costly to produce. The major challenge stopping polymer solar cells from becoming mass produced and available on the general market is efficiency. 

Silicon based cells such as those used in polycrystalline and monocrystalline solar panels can convert 12% – 18% of available sunlight to electricity. Polymer solar cells are still only around the 5% conversion mark. It’s hoped that through the Clean Energy Project, a combination of materials will be discovered that can achieve a 10% conversion rate, while still remaining very cheap to produce.

To participate in the project, individuals can register on and download a free, secure software application to install. Once installed, when a computer is idle, data is automatically requested from World Community Grid’s server. The computer runs the calculations then uploads the results back to the server.