iSGTW Feature - Help create an earthbound sun

Feature - Help create an earthbound sun

A view of the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER), showing its main components, with a person for size reference. One of the pilot applications running in Ibercivis is devoted to ITER simulations. Image courtesy of ITER

The dream of fusion power sounds so fantastic that one's initial reaction might be to dismiss it as science fiction. Yet scientists hope to bring the power that emblazons the sun, fusion, to earthbound reactors. In this type of reaction two atomic nuclei bind - or fuse - together to form a heavier atom, triggering a monumental release of energy. The International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) is a joint international research and development project seeking to build a prototype fusion power plant. (The finished machine will be located in the south of France.)

Aiding ITER in its computational load is Ibercivis, a volunteer computing project centered in Spain, which allows computer users citizens to donate unused computing cycles from their personal computers to scientific research. While the Ibercivis resource broker and its storage elements are in Spain, project participants are from all over the world. Ibercivis launched in June 2008 and since then has been increasing its computing resources. The number of people donating their desktop resources for scientific computing has risen steadily, and is currently at about 20,000.

Map of the computing resources that are available for Ibercivis donated by participating citizens. Those points that appear in the sea correspond to the cases that the not fixed in the map by the registered people. The coloured lines correspond to the sent works and data. This map can be taken from the web page of the project. Image courtesy of ITER

"Participating in Ibercivis gives people the opportunity to directly help in this scientific research," says Francisco Castejón, head of the Fusion Theory unit at the Research Center for Energy, Environment and Technology (CIEMAT), Spain. "Ibercivis is accompanied by informative talks and material to help people understand what their computer cycles accomplish. This project is also interesting for researchers, giving them the chance to communicate their work to the general public."

Ibercivis was developed with the cooperation of the Institute of Biocomputation and Physics of Complex Systems at the University of Zaragoza, CIEMAT, CETA-CIEMAT, CSIC and RedIris. In addition to hosting fusion applications, Ibercivis can be used for calculating other applications. For example, protein folding and materials simulations also run in Ibercivis.

Ibercivis is not a temporary project (unlike many BOINC-based volunteer computing projects), so it will be possible to submit applications indefinitely. In addition, Ibercivis is designed to run not just one but several applications belonging to different disciplines. All applications previously ported to the grid can run efficiently in Ibercivis. This makes it possible to run a single application on both volunteer and grid resources.

Click here if you would like your computer to join with EGEE resources in the work to bring a bit of the sun to the earth.

Learn more about this work at the upcoming EGEE User Forum, March 2-6 2009, in Catania, Italy.

-Danielle Venton, EGEE

For more information: The project known as EDGES (enabling Desktop Grids for e-Science) brings together BOINC and EGEE, linking volunteer and production grids to support communities such as fusion. EDGES and Ibercivis, currently working on a Memorandum of Understanding, hope to collaborate in the future.

EUFORIA (EU Fusion fOR Iter Applications) is a pan-European project developing and supporting an IT infrastructure based on grids and high-performance computing for ITER applications.