A new report finds that the high powered graphics processing units GPUs now in video games - the hardware that gives gamers 3-D images and other sophisticated graphics - are being used by computation chemists. These GPUs have incredible math computational power. According to Vijay Pande, a chemistry professor at Stanford:
"My mom gives me a hard time and says that I'm just being impatient," says Pande, who has been researching how proteins fold for nearly 20 years. But it currently takes an entire day for a protein-folding calculation to output one nanosecond of simulated folding data for a simple model system. Proteins that are of interest to experimentalists, however, often take a millisecond or longer to fold. "That's about a million times longer," Pande points out, "so it would take a million days, or 3,000 years, which is just ridiculous." GPUs excite the Stanford researcher because they have the potential to reduce calculation time for certain problems from years to months.
This can help speed up research into new drugs - which now can take up to 10-15 years or more.