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July 7, 2015

IBM supercomputer brings clean water access to 1bn people

The computational simulation study was powered by IBM's World Community Grid.

By CBR Staff Writer

A virtual supercomputer created by IBM has helped scientists in discovering a phenomenon that can enhance access to clean water for one billion people.

Scientists at Tsinghua University in China used IBM’s World Community Grid to discover the conditions required for moving water via carbon nanotubes 300% faster without the need of further energy.

The project saw the use of massive computing power from volunteers to create simulations of water flow at the molecular level.

Researchers undertook vast simulations using the donated, surplus processing power of IBM’s World Community Grid, which harnesses three million connected computers from over 700,000 "citizen-scientist" volunteers globally.

Approximately 100 million calculations carried out by IBM’s virtual, crowdsourced supercomputer for the Computing For Clean Water project would have cost $15m if they were performed commercially.

IBM said it would have taken over 37,000 years had they been undertaken on a single-processor PC.

Researchers now plan to optimise the nanotubes and apply them to enhance water filtration and seawater desalination.

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Tsinghua University director of Center for Nano and Micro Mechanics Quanshui Zheng said: "Prior to our project, simulations of water flow in carbon nanotubes could only be carried out under unrealistically high flow-rate conditions.

"Thanks to IBM’s crowdsourced World Community Grid, the Computing for Clean Water project could extend such simulations to probe flow rates of just a few centimeters per second, characteristic of the working conditions of real nanotube-based filters."

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