Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Building the mechanical nano computer

25.07.2007
A new type of electromechanical computer built from components a millionth the thickness of the human hair could soon be gearing up to do high speed computation, according to researchers writing in the New Journal of Physics today.

Long before silicon chips were to be found at the heart of the computer, even before transistors and thermionic valves, there was the concept of the mechanical computer, a machine to be built from levers, ratchets and cogs, complete with brass fittings and a Victorian flourish. The mechanical computer was never to be, at least not while microelectronics devices could carry out computations incredibly quickly by shuffling electrons.

Now, however, the emergence of nanotechnology brings with it the opportunity to manipulate materials close to the individual molecular level. So, could a nano-electromechanical computer be built?

Robert Blick and colleagues in the department of Electrical & Computer Engineering, at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA, believe so.

The UW-Madison team propose a fully mechanical computer based on electromechanical units, a billionth of a metre in size. These units might be based on tiny chunks of diamond or another superhard material that changes shape when an electric current is applied, so-called piezoelectric materials.

The units could be integrated into current silicon chip manufacturing processes and would operate essentially by pushing and pulling on each other, actuating connected elements to create switches, logic gates, and memory units. They would be the mechanical equivalent of the microscopic transistors on a silicon chip.

The fact that these nano-electromechanical units will be a thousandth the size of a transistor means that many, many more could be packed into the same space. The much smaller separation of logic gates also means that such a computer might eventually be made much faster than one based on the conventional silicon chip.

The researchers also point out that electromechanical elements will have several other advantages over silicon chip technology. They will use less power, for instance, and they will generate far less waste heat and so be able to operate at much higher temperatures without expensive and noisy cooling systems. They could also withstand voltage surges that can burn out a silicon chip. These advantages mean that the technology could be used in more extreme environments than today's computers, such as very hot conditions (exceeding 200 degrees Celsius), within high voltage electrical installations, or in the harsh environment of space.

This is a novel, breakthrough technology rather than an incremental change, which could lead to a new class of computer that is far more energy efficient than current machines, requires no cooling and can work in extreme environments. The technology exists to make the nano-electromechanical elements; the next step is to integrate them into a computational device and build a computer.

Helen MacBain | alfa
Further information:
http://www.iop.org/EJ/abstract/1367-2630/9/7/241

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht From rocks in Colorado, evidence of a 'chaotic solar system'
23.02.2017 | University of Wisconsin-Madison

nachricht Prediction: More gas-giants will be found orbiting Sun-like stars
22.02.2017 | Carnegie Institution for Science

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Breakthrough with a chain of gold atoms

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

Im Focus: DNA repair: a new letter in the cell alphabet

Results reveal how discoveries may be hidden in scientific “blind spots”

Cells need to repair damaged DNA in our genes to prevent the development of cancer and other diseases. Our cells therefore activate and send “repair-proteins”...

Im Focus: Dresdner scientists print tomorrow’s world

The Fraunhofer IWS Dresden and Technische Universität Dresden inaugurated their jointly operated Center for Additive Manufacturing Dresden (AMCD) with a festive ceremony on February 7, 2017. Scientists from various disciplines perform research on materials, additive manufacturing processes and innovative technologies, which build up components in a layer by layer process. This technology opens up new horizons for component design and combinations of functions. For example during fabrication, electrical conductors and sensors are already able to be additively manufactured into components. They provide information about stress conditions of a product during operation.

The 3D-printing technology, or additive manufacturing as it is often called, has long made the step out of scientific research laboratories into industrial...

Im Focus: Mimicking nature's cellular architectures via 3-D printing

Research offers new level of control over the structure of 3-D printed materials

Nature does amazing things with limited design materials. Grass, for example, can support its own weight, resist strong wind loads, and recover after being...

Im Focus: Three Magnetic States for Each Hole

Nanometer-scale magnetic perforated grids could create new possibilities for computing. Together with international colleagues, scientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) have shown how a cobalt grid can be reliably programmed at room temperature. In addition they discovered that for every hole ("antidot") three magnetic states can be configured. The results have been published in the journal "Scientific Reports".

Physicist Dr. Rantej Bali from the HZDR, together with scientists from Singapore and Australia, designed a special grid structure in a thin layer of cobalt in...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Booth and panel discussion – The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings at the AAAS 2017 Annual Meeting

13.02.2017 | Event News

Complex Loading versus Hidden Reserves

10.02.2017 | Event News

International Conference on Crystal Growth in Freiburg

09.02.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Stingless bees have their nests protected by soldiers

24.02.2017 | Life Sciences

New risk factors for anxiety disorders

24.02.2017 | Life Sciences

MWC 2017: 5G Capital Berlin

24.02.2017 | Trade Fair News

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>