Intel grid-computing app helps scientific research

The Progress Thru Processors Facebook application allows people to donate their unused processor time to research into climate change, cancer and malaria

Chip company Intel has launched a beta application that lets people contribute their spare processor power to humanitarian scientific projects.

The grid-computing application Progress Thru Processors, which people can download from social-networking site Facebook, allows users to donate spare computing cycles to research into climate change, cancer and malaria.

"Progress Thru Processors underscores our belief that small contributions made by individuals can collectively have a far-reaching impact on our world," said Deborah Conrad, Intel's general manager of corporate marketing, in the company's announcement on Tuesday.

People can choose to donate processor power to Climateprediction.net, which tests the accuracy of models of climate change; Rosetta@home, which determines proteins for cancer research; or Africa@home, which models malaria transmission.

Intel said the application automatically runs in the background, and consumes cycles only when the processor is not fully used.

The company developed the application in conjunction with GridRepublic. The non-profit is a gateway to grid computing projects including Seti, the alien intelligence search project, and LHC@home, the grid-computing project to process data from the Large Hadron Collider.

"The social and scientific utility of volunteer computing is a function of the number of participants — the more people we sign up, the greater the good we can collectively do," said Matt Blumberg, executive director of GridRepublic, quoted in Intel's statement.