09 Dec 2008 05:12:53
Grid computing seeks better solar tech
A method used to scan the skies to find intelligent alien life is to be used to produce more cost-effective solar cells.
Scientists at Harvard University and IBM will use spare power from one million volunteer's computers to carry out complex calculations.
They hope that instead of taking 22 years to do the calculations to find a combination of organic materials to produce plastic solar cells, the power of the volunteer's computers will cut the time to two years.
The method, called grid computing, is also used by the SETI search for intelligent life in space.
It requires volunteers to download a programme after which when their computer goes idle and into screensaver mode, its processing power is harnessed to carry out the scientists' calculations.
The scientists are hoping they will find a way of making flexible and cheaper solar cells than existing silicon cells. Plastic photovoltaics already exist but are not efficient enough for commercialisation.
"It is not now cost efficient, although the materials are cheap because it's plastic," said Alan Aspuru-Guzik, a chemistry researcher at Harvard University.
Meanwhile, US firm Infinite Power Solutions has announced that it will produce the first batteries that can be recharged directly by solar power.
It managed to raise $13 million (£8.75 million) it needed to bring to market the thin-film batteries, which can also pick up energy from ambient heat, magnetic or vibration energy.http://www.worldcommunitygrid.org/projects_showcase/cep1/...