Researchers from Harvard and the non-proft MITRE Corporation have developed a prototype computer that uses molecular-level wire circuits positioned on nanoscale tiles instead of conventional transistors. Aside from opening the door to smaller, lighter computers, the new technology could also help alleviate the growing problem of energy-guzzling computers, data centers and electronic equipment.
Nanoscale Computer Tiles
The new system uses circuits made from germanium-silicon wires (germanium is a silvery-looking element that shares properties with metals and non-metals). The wires are insulated with metal oxides and are only 30 nanometers in diameter. They are formed on “tiles” that can be assembled to form more powerful processors.
Energy Efficient Nanoprocessors
The tile-based technology could result in a huge amount of energy savings relating to the manufacture of computers and electronic goods, simply by reducing their size and weight. The real energy-efficiency thrill, though, is in the technology itself. In contrast to conventional transistors, once the nanowires have been programmed they retain memory without the need for additional power.
Next Steps for Energy Efficient Computers
The technology is still a ways off from achieving the status of a fully functional molecular scale computer, but the new circuits have proved capable of performing basic functions and the prospects look good for a new generation of more energy efficient electronics. In the meantime, there are a whole slew of energy efficiency strategies in the works, from new designs for data centers and server farms, all the way down to the simple stuff – which has proven to be not so simple after all – namely, getting more people to shut down their PC’s when not in use.
Image: Mosaic by leeroy09481 on flickr.com.