IBM’s World Community Grid is a global network of computers linked up to become a single super-computer. The processing power of idling computers is put to use number crunching solutions to AIDS, Dengue Fever, um, Human Proteome Folding, and, now, clean energy:
The mission of the Clean Energy Project is to find new materials for the next generation of solar cells and later, energy storage devices. By harnessing the immense power of World Community Grid, researchers can calculate the electronic properties of tens of thousands of organic materials — many more than could ever be tested in a lab — and determine which candidates are most promising for developing affordable solar energy technology.
You can sign up to have your computer used whenever idling (it’s basically a screensaver) by downloading a little piece of software. I did — maybe now I’ll have incentive to let the damn computer idle occasionally.