Top new computer chip material

Tom James @ 15-06-2009

electron_band_bismuth_tellurideResearcher at the Stanford Institute for Materials & Energy Science have developed a new substance for making computer chips that allows electrons to flow without any loss of energy at room temperatures and can be made using existing chip-making technologies:

Physicists Yulin Chen, Zhi-Xun Shen and their colleagues tested the behavior of electrons in the compound bismuth telluride. The results, published online June 11 in Science Express, show a clear signature of what is called a topological insulator, a material that enables the free flow of electrons across its surface with no loss of energy

This is pretty amazing in and of itself, but is not quite a superconductor:

Topological insulators aren’t conventional superconductors nor fodder for super-efficient power lines, as they can only carry small currents, but they could pave the way for a paradigm shift in microchip development. “This could lead to new applications of spintronics, or using the electron spin to carry information,”

[from Physorg][image via Physorg from Yulin Chen and Z. X. Shen]


“Tech support? I need a plumber.”

JustinP @ 06-06-2008

In an attempt to pre-empt the engineering problems posed by the relentless march (or final splutterings) of Moore’s law, IBM has unveiled plans for an very different kind of hydraulic computing;

A network of tiny pipes of water could be used to cool next-generation PC chips, researchers … have said.

Scientists at the firm have shown off a prototype device layered with thousands of “hair-width” cooling arteries.

They believe it could be a solution to the increasing amount of heat pumped out by chips as they become smaller and more densely packed with components.

So – let me get this straight – give it five years, and to support my ultra-powerful palmtop, I’ll have to plumb the darned thing into the domestic water supply or ensure a steady supply of bottled mineral water? Either way, surely that’d negate the whole portability issue?

[Image and story via the BBC]


Memristors – The new component of electronics

Tomas Martin @ 01-05-2008

A new component of electronics, first proposed in 1971, has been built by researchers at Hewlett Packard. Memristors join the three existing main components of a circuit – capacitors, resistors and inductors. The main feature of a memristor is its ability to ‘remember’ what charge it had when power runs through it.

Today, most PCs use dynamic random access memory (DRAM) which loses data when the power is turned off. But a computer built with memristors could allow PCs that start up instantly, laptops that retain sessions after the battery dies, or mobile phones that can last for weeks without needing a charge. “If you turn on your computer it will come up instantly where it was when you turned it off,” Professor Williams told Reuters.

In addition the memristor is very small and once fully commercialised could allow computer chips far smaller than those today, giving good old Moore’s Law another reprieve as conventional methods to keep it going begin to run out of steam.

[via BBC]