Molecular simulations using PlayStation 3


While wandering around looking at the outreach activities at ESOF2008, I came across this interesting booth for the PS3GRID project, by members of the Multiscale Lab, which is located in the University of Pompeu Fabra’s Computational Biochemistry and Biophysics Laboratory at the Barcelona Biomedical Research Park.

Run by volunteers, the project involves building computer simulations of molecules to study protein dynamics and interactions. This is done using gaming hardware such as the PlayStation 3 and NVIDIA graphics card, which have more processing power than the CPUs found in standard computers.

The project leaders are asking gamers to “donate” processing power, such that their consoles can run molecular simulations while not being used to play games. According to the website, the consoles of 10,000 volunteers would provide processing power that is equivalent to the world’s largest supercomputer.

The researchers taking part in the project are particularly interested in the proteins associated with Alzheimer’s Disease. In the photograph above, a simulation of the gramicidine A potassium channel, which contains some 30,000 atoms, can be seen in the background.


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