Folding@home

From Academic Kids

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The Microsoft Windows Folding@Home client displays a 3D model of the protein being simulated.

Folding@home is a distributed computing project designed to perform computationally intensive simulations of protein folding. It was launched on October 1, 2000, and is currently managed by the Pande Group, within Stanford University's Chemistry department, under the supervision of Professor Vijay S. Pande. When launched, it became the second largest distributing computing project after SETI@home.

On March 8, 2004, Genome@home was terminated and was merged into Folding@home.

Contents

Project significance

Accurate simulations of protein folding and misfolding enable the scientific community to better understand the development of many diseases, including Alzheimer's disease, BSE (mad cow disease), and cystic fibrosis. So far, the Folding@home project has successfully simulated folding in the 5-10 microsecond range—a time scale thousands of times larger than were previously thought possible.

Many scientific research papers have been published using the project's work. [1] (http://www.stanford.edu/group/pandegroup/folding/papers.html)

How it works

Folding@home does not rely on powerful supercomputers for its processing; instead, the primary contributors to the Folding@home project are many thousands of personal computer users who have installed a small client program. The client runs in the background, and makes use of the CPU when it is not busy. In most modern personal computers, the CPU is rarely used to its full capacity at all times; the Folding@home client takes advantage of this unused processing power.

The Folding@home client periodically connects to a server to retrieve "work units," which are packets of data upon which to perform calculations. Each completed work unit is then sent back to the server.

The Folding@home client utilizes modified versions of three molecular simulation programs for calculation: Tinker (http://dasher.wustl.edu/tinker), Gromacs, AMBER, and QMD (http://www.cpmd.org/).

Contributors to Folding@home may have user names used to keep track of their contributions. Each user may be running the client on one or more CPUs; for example, a home user with two computers could run the client on both of them. Users may also contribute under one or more team names; many different users may join together to form a team. Contributors are assigned a score indicating the number and difficulty of completed work units. Rankings and other statistics are posted to the Folding@home website.

Progress and future

As of January 14, 2005, more than 170,000 CPUs were actively participating in Folding@home, with a total of over 1 million CPUs registered with the project. With this level of participation Folding@home is one of the most powerful supercomputers in the world capable of a peak computational level of approximately 200 TeraFlops.

There is already cooperation between Folding@home and Google Labs. This comes in form of Google Compute.

Also new research is aimed at accelerating computational power by utilizing a computer's GPU, the graphics processing unit, in addition to the CPU.

Folding@home is currently developing a BOINC version in the hopes of attracting a wider base of users.

See also

External links

he:Folding@home nl:Folding@home ru:Folding@Home zh:Folding@home

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