App uses extra computing power for protein research

Jan. 13, 2015, 2:08 p.m.

Stanford researchers, in collaboration with Sony, have launched an app that can use your phone to conduct research while a user isn’t operating her phone.

The mobile phone application is called Folding@home, and was released Monday, Jan. 12, in the Google Play store.

Chemistry professor Vijay Pande has been collaborating with Sony for several years, first releasing Folding@home as a program to make use of extra computing power on desktop computers.

The Folding@home program is a protein-folding simulation intended to help researchers better understand protein folding and misfolding, with the eventual goal of applying that knowledge to diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Mad Cow, CJD, ALS and AIDS, according to the program’s website.

There are currently more than 170,000 computers running the program, according to the app’s website, with an output of more than 45,000 teraflops of computer power.

Researchers need so much computer power to study protein folding because the complex nature of the protein-folding process necessitates a complex computer simulation, which requires a lot of computer power.

When a user’s phone is not being used – for example, overnight – the program runs protein-folding simulations that have been requested by researchers. When the user activates her phone again, the application shuts down and hands the simulation it was running to another phone that is running the application.

Alice Phillips '15 is Managing Editor of News at The Stanford Daily. Previously, she worked as the paper's Deputy Editor, Chief Copy Editor, a News Desk Editor and a News Staff Writer. Alice is a biology major from Los Angeles, California.

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