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December 14, 2007
Event highlights range of energy initiatives at MIT
CAMBRIDGE, Mass., Dec. 11 -- A team of 10 Massachusetts Institute of Technology cyclists highlighted the range of energy activities at MIT in a unique way Tuesday by using bicycles to power a supercomputer conducting research on nuclear fusion. The computer run was the largest human-powered computation in history.
Riding bicycles attached to electrical generators, the students not only saved energy by using human power to run the SiCortex SC648 supercomputer (http://www.sicortex.com/), they used the computer to conduct research promoting alternative energy, as well. Several students on the MIT Cycling Team research nuclear fusion, a potentially promising source of energy that would provide a clean, environmentally-friendly alternative to currently used nuclear fission power that produces dangerous radioactive waste. A large part of their research is conducted using supercomputers that can model plasmas at nearly 10 million degrees centigrade. The bicycle powered SiCortex computer ran a modeling application written by Greg Wallace, a graduate student at MIT and an avid mountain biker.
The MIT Cycling Team joined forces with SiCortex, a Massachusetts company specializing in energy-efficient supercomputing. The MIT cyclists powered a SiCortex supercomputer drawing 1.2 kilowatts of electricity, riding non-stop for almost 20 minutes. A conventional supercomputer might require ten times as much power to perform the same calculations.
"By harnessing the energy creation processes of the sun, our research opens the possibility of limitless energy," said John Wright, a member of MIT's Plasma Science & Fusion Center and an avid cyclist. "But we still need to do our parts individually, such as by using energy-efficient computers in our research."
Merging cycling and technology is nothing new for an MIT team known for constructing personalized aerobars and fabricating lightweight collapsible barriers to use at cyclocross practice and applying wind-tunnel research to excel at team time trials. The team will head to Kansas City, Kansas this weekend to defend their 2006 USA Cycling Cyclocross National Championship title.
About MIT Cycling
MIT Cycling is the student-run cycling team of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The club sport team seeks to foster a cycling-friendly environment for all levels of riders, from beginners to national-caliber racers. The team is sponsored by FXDD, a leading online foreign exchange trading firm headquartered in New York City. More information about the team can be found at http://www.mitcycling.org.
Source: MIT Cycling
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