With 22.3 million digits, new prime number sets record

Mathematicians at the University of Central Missouri have discovered a record-setting prime number that's so large it would take about 6,000 pages of paper to print.

The 22.3-million-digit discovery is the 49th known Mersenne prime number and the fourth discovered at the university. Primes are numbers such as 3, 7 and 11 that are divisible only by themselves and 1 without leaving a remainder.

The Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search says the number was independently verified. The cooperative relies on underused computing power to perform the calculations needed to find and verify Mersenne primes.

The organization said in a news release Thursday that prime numbers are important for cryptography but that the newly discovered number is too large for that purpose. One benefit of Mersenne primes is testing computer hardware.