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2012-01-01 02:17:10


This Perspective introduces the Harvard Clean Energy Project (CEP), a theory-driven search for the next generation of organic solar cell materials. We give a broad overview of its setup and infrastructure, present first results, and outline upcoming developments. CEP has established an automated, high-throughput, in silico framework to study potential candidate structures for organic photovoltaics.

The current project phase is concerned with the characterization of millions of molecular motifs using first-principles quantum chemistry. The scale of this study requires a correspondingly large computational resource, which is provided by distributed volunteer computing on IBM's World Community Grid. The results are compiled and analyzed in a reference database and will be made available for public use.

In addition to finding specific candidates with certain properties, it is the goal of CEP to illuminate and understand the structure property relations in the domain of organic electronics. Such insights can open the door to a rational and systematic design of future high-performance materials. The computational work in CEP is tightly embedded in a collaboration with experimentalists, who provide valuable input and feedback to the project.


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2013-02-15 21:34:15




The Harvard Clean Energy Project (CEP) is a theory-driven search for the next generation of organic solar cell materials. CEP has established an automated, high-throughput, in silico framework to study potential candidate structures for organic photovoltaics. At this phase, we are concerned with the characterization of millions of molecular motifs using first-principles quantum chemistry (as implemented in the Q-Chem software package).

The scale of this study requires a correspondingly large computational resource, which is provided by distributed volunteer computing on IBM's World Community Grid. The results are compiled and analyzed in an extensive reference database and will be made available for public use.

In addition to finding specific candidates with certain properties, it is the goal of CEP to illuminate and understand the structure property relations in the domain of organic electronics. Such insights can open the door to a rational and systematic design of future high-performance materials. The computational work in CEP is tightly embedded in a collaboration with experimentalists, who provide valuable input and feedback to the project.
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2013-06-25 15:27:38


Harvard’s Clean Energy Project is relying on a virtual supercomputer to discover organic carbon compounds best suited for solar power.


Harvard’s Clean Energy Project (CEP) is using IBM’s World Community Grid, a virtual supercomputer that leverages volunteers’ surplus computing power, to determine which organic carbon compounds are best suited for converting sunlight into electricity.

IBM claims that the resulting database of compounds is the most extensive investigation of quantum chemicals ever performed. In theory, all that information can be utilized to develop organic semiconductors and solar cells. Roughly a thousand of the molecular structures explored by the project are capable of converting 11 percent (or more) of captured sunlight into electricity—a significant boost from many organic cells currently in use, which convert between 4 and 5 percent of sunlight.

That’s significantly less than solar cells crafted from silicon, which can produce efficiencies of up to nearly 20 percent (at least in the case of black silicon solar cells). But silicon solar cells are costly to produce, experiments with low-grade materials notwithstanding; organic cells could be a cheap and recyclable alternative, provided researchers can make them more efficient.
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2013-07-06 14:00:23
last modified: 2013-07-06 14:02:30

Finding the Optimal Compound For Low-Cost Plastic Photovoltaic Cells


The dream of a solar-powered world recently took a major step forward. On 24 June, in a joint announcement with the US White House and IBM, the Harvard Clean Energy Project released a database of 2.3 million organic compounds - 35,000 of which have promising properties for high-performance semiconductors - that solar-power developers could use to make affordable photovoltaic cells (PVCs). In the spirit of open science, the project provides the Harvard Clean Energy Project Database (CEPDB ) free of charge to the public and researchers.

Affordability is crucial to the success of solar power. The sun has always been up to the task of powering our planet, with enough sunlight reaching Earth every hour to supply our energy needs for an entire year. However, humans have yet to find a way to convert light into energy sufficiently cheaply and efficiently. Today's commercially available solar cells are typically made of inorganic semiconductor materials, such as silicon, and require a lot of energy and capital to produce.

The Clean Energy Project's announcement is a potential game changer. Led by Harvard quantum chemist Alán Aspuru-Guzik, the project seeks to develop candidate molecules for high-performance solar cells made of plastic. These materials can be made in the form of sheets, films, and coatings - imagine powering your home with PVCs painted on the roof. But how do scientists determine which molecules - out of millions of possible combinations - will most efficiently absorb light and convert it into electricity?
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2013-07-17 14:36:05




Here comes the sun: Harvard and the World Community Grid light the way to affordable solar cells


Aspuru-Guzik said he needed to think big when he started the Clean Energy Project’s collaboration with WCG. “Our biggest challenge was the change of mindset. Usually, computational chemists who try to do this type of thing are studying 10 or 20 molecules at a time. We had to start thinking in terms of millions of molecules and formulate new ideas based on this new scale. The World Community Grid allows us to screen about 25,000 molecules every day. That gives us the opportunity to explore the molecular space, and learn about some crazy molecules that could be good organic materials.”

This is music to Viktors Berstis’ ears. As lead scientist for World Community Grid and IBM Master Inventor, Berstis makes sure that researchers get the most out of WCG. “Scientists instinctively try to reduce the size of their projects,” he explains. “They have limited budgets and limited computing time. At the World Community Grid, we help them imagine what they could do with a ridiculous amount of computer time. Partnering with us gives the researchers the equivalent of one supercomputer all to themselves, 24/7, year after year – helping them make much better progress on their science.”

To date, more than 600,000 people around the world have joined the World Community Grid, donating their idle computing time to help researchers like Aspuru-Guzik find solutions to some of the world’s toughest challenges. The Clean Energy Project alone just passed 17,000 cumulative CPU years of computing time. As a result, plastic solar cells may be one step closer to becoming a reality.

“The potential benefit of finding just the right chemical compound for cheap and efficient PVCs could save the world,” says Berstis. “We’ll likely run out of fossil fuels in about 100 years, putting us on a slope to catastrophe – the way to solve this problem is to make use of renewable energy.”
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Index :: The Projects :: World Community Grid: The Clean Energy Project (CEP2)
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