From Computing For Clean Water at WCG Status Update
“World Community Grid (WCG) brings people together from across the globe to create the largest non-profit computing grid benefiting humanity. It does this by pooling surplus computer processing power. We believe that innovation combined with visionary scientific research and large-scale volunteerism can help make the planet smarter. Our success depends on like-minded individuals – like you.”
“The Computing for Clean Water (C4CW) project has returned over 90 million results!”
The mission of Computing for Clean Water is to provide deeper insight on the molecular scale into the origins of the efficient flow of water through a novel class of filter materials. This insight will in turn guide future development of low-cost and more efficient water filters.
Lack of access to clean water is one of the major humanitarian challenges for many regions in the developing world. It is estimated that 1.2 billion people lack access to safe drinking water, and 2.6 billion have little or no sanitation. Millions of people die annually – estimates are 3,900 children a day – from the results of diseases transmitted through unsafe water, in particular diarrhea.
Technologies for filtering dirty water exist, but are generally quite expensive. Desalination of sea water, a potentially abundant source of drinking water, is similarly limited by filtering costs. Therefore, new approaches to efficient water filtering are a subject of intense research. Carbon nanotubes, stacked in arrays so that water must pass through the length of the tubes, represent a new approach to filtering water.
Normally, the extremely small pore size of nanotubes, typically only a few water molecules in diameter, would require very large pressures and hence expensive equipment in order to filter useful amounts of water. However, in 2005 experiments showed that such arrays of nanotubes allow water to flow at much higher rates than expected. This surprising result has spurred many scientists to invest considerable effort in studying the underlying processes that facilitate water flow in nanotubes.
This project uses large-scale molecular dynamics calculations – where the motions of individual water molecules through the nanotubes are simulated – in order to get a deeper understanding of the mechanism of water flow in the nanotubes. For example, there has been speculation about whether the water molecules in direct contact with the nanotube might behave more like ice. This in turn might reduce the friction felt by the rest of the water, hence increasing the rate of flow. Realistic computer simulations are one way to test such hypotheses.
Ultimately, the scientists hope to use the insights they glean from the simulations in order to optimize the underlying process that is enabling water to flow much more rapidly through nanotubes and other nanoporous materials. This optimization process will allow water to flow even more easily, while retaining sources of contamination. The simulations may also reveal under what conditions such filters can best assist in a desalination process.”
“The Computing for Clean Water (C4CW) project is a joint project between CNMM and several international research institutions [The University of Sydney, Monash University, The National Centre of Nanoscience and Technology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Institute of High Energy Physics, The Citizen Cyberscience Centre, with the support of IBM’s World Community Grid, and thousands of volunteers.
The team at CNMM is investigating how water flows in nanotubes, using a computer-based simulation technique known as molecular dynamics. The ultimate goal of this research is deeper insight into how nanotubes and other porous nanomaterials can be used to build a new generation of cheap water filters, to alleviate the pressing demand for clean water in large parts of China and many other parts of the developing world.
To do these simulations with the sort of accuracy we need takes a lot of computing power, far more than is accessible to us currently. Volunteers provide this computing power by allowing some simulations to run using the idle time of the processor chips in their laptops and PCs, for example while they are writing emails or surfing the web. Indeed, when doing these common tasks, the processor is idle often more than 90% of the time, and using some of that idle time turns out to be energetically very efficient, since it only adds a few percent extra power to what the computer would otherwise consume.
The results from each simulation, when combined together statistically for millions of runs, help us create a pool of necessary data that can be analyzed to understand why recent experiments show that water flows much more easily in nanotubes than standard hydrodynamical considerations would normally lead us to believe. Understanding this process is a first step to optimizing it for practical purposes, in particular to make cheaper filters that do not require so much pressue to filter water through them.
This is an exciting project, but it is also complicated and will run over some time. World Community Grid enables scientists and volunteers to co-operate in a very simple and powerful way. We are grateful for the continuing support of every one of our volunteers and will post our progress here to keep you updated.”
WCG projects run on BOINC software from UC Berkeley.
CAN ONE PERSON MAKE A DIFFERENCE? YOU BETCHA!!
“Download and install secure, free software that captures your computer’s spare power when it is on, but idle. You will then be a World Community Grid volunteer. It’s that simple!” You can download the software at either WCG or BOINC.
Please visit the project pages-
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