Electrical currents can be now be switched on and off at the smallest conceivable scale enabling a new generation of ‘green electronics’ with the potential for great impact on the digital economy
Robert Wolkow is no stranger to mastering the ultra-small and the ultra-fast. A pioneer in atomic-scale science with a Guinness World Record to boot (for a needle with a single atom at the point), Wolkow’s team, together with collaborators at the Max Plank Institute in Hamburg, have just released findings that detail how to create atomic switches for electricity, many times smaller than what is currently used.
What does it all mean? With applications for practical systems like silicon semi-conductor electronics, it means smaller, more efficient, more energy-conserving computers, as just one example of the technology revolution that is unfolding right before our very eyes (if you can squint that hard).
“This is the first time anyone’s seen a switching of a single-atom channel,” explains Wolkow, a physics professor at the University of Alberta and the Principal Research Officer at Canada’s National Institute for Nanotechnology. “You’ve heard of a transistor–a switch for electricity–well, our switches are almost a hundred times smaller than the smallest on the market today.”
Today’s tiniest transistors operate at the 14 nanometer level, which still represents thousands of atoms. Wolkow’s and his team at the University of Alberta, NINT, and his spinoff QSi, have worked the technology down to just a few atoms. Since computers are simply a composition of many on/off switches, the findings point the way not only to ultra-efficient general purpose computing but also to a new path to quantum computing.
“We’re using this technology to make ultra-green, energy-conserving general purpose computers but also to further the development of quantum computers. We are building the most energy conserving electronics ever, consuming about a thousand times less power than today’s electronics.”
While the new tech is small, the potential societal, economic, and environmental impact of Wolkow’s discovery is very large. Today, our electronics consume several percent of the world’s electricity. As the size of the energy footprint of the digital economy increases, material and energy conservation is becoming increasingly important.
Wolkow says there are surprising benefits to being smaller, both for normal computers, and, for quantum computers too. “Quantum systems are characterized by their delicate hold on information. They’re ever so easily perturbed. Interestingly though, the smaller the system gets, the fewer upsets.” Therefore, Wolkow explains, you can create a system that is simultaneously amazingly small, using less material and churning through less energy, while holding onto information just right.
When the new technology is fully developed, it will lead to not only a smaller energy footprint but also more affordable systems for consumers. “It’s kind of amazing when everything comes together,” says Wolkow.
Wolkow is one of the few people in the world talking about atom-scale manufacturing and believes we are witnessing the beginning of the revolution to come. He and his team have been working with large-scale industry leader Lockheed Martin as the entry point to the market.
“It’s something you don’t even hear about yet, but atom-scale manufacturing is going to be world-changing. People think it’s not quite doable but, but we’re already making things out of atoms routinely. We aren’t doing it just because. We are doing it because the things we can make have ever more desirable properties. They’re not just smaller. They’re different and better. This is just the beginning of what will be at least a century of developments in atom-scale manufacturing, and it will be transformational.”
The Latest on: Atomic-scale manufacturing
via Google News
The Latest on: Atomic-scale manufacturing
- Lam Research expands its portfolio for atomic-scale processing on January 29, 2019 at 10:00 am
Together with Lam’s VECTOR ALD Oxide product for dielectric film ALD and ALTUS systems for tungsten metal film ALD, these products support the industry’s shift toward manufacturing chips at the atomic ... […]
- Super-dense atomic hard drive is near commercial reality on July 24, 2018 at 8:29 am
Achal worked with University of Alberta physics professor Robert Wolkow who has developed nanotip technology which can be used to scale up atomic-scale manufacturing for commercialisation. “With this ... […]
- Writing the future of rewritable memory on July 23, 2018 at 9:20 am
Wolkow perfected the art of the science behind nanotip technology, which, thanks to Wolkow and his team's continued work, has now reached a tipping point, meaning scaling up atomic-scale manufacturing ... […]
- Atomic-scale manufacturing now a reality on May 23, 2018 at 7:41 am
Scientists at the University of Alberta have applied a machine learning technique using artificial intelligence to perfect and automate atomic-scale manufacturing, something which has never been done ... […]
- Cancer-fighting nanorobots can seek, destroy tumours on February 12, 2018 at 11:20 pm
DNA origami, in the past two decades, has developed atomic-scale manufacturing to build more and more complex structures. The bricks to build their structures come from DNA, which can self-fold into a... […]
- Cancer-fighting nanorobots seek and destroy tumors on February 12, 2018 at 9:42 am
Yan is an expert in the field of DNA origami, which in the past two decades has developed atomic-scale manufacturing to build more and more complex structures. The bricks to build their structures com... […]
- When it comes to atomic-scale manufacturing, less really is more on October 28, 2016 at 9:05 am
Robert Wolkow is no stranger to mastering the ultra-small and the ultra-fast. A pioneer in atomic-scale science with a Guinness World Record to boot (for a needle with a single atom at the point), Wol... […]
- Michelle Simmons: a quantum queen on September 25, 2016 at 2:06 pm
None of this fazes physicist Michelle Simmons. She is confident the team she leads ... president of Texas-based Zyvex labs, an atomic-scale manufacturing company. “Australia can be a big player.” “I’m ... […]
- ORNL: atomic-scale additive manufacturing techniques could create stronger, lighter, smarter materials on July 13, 2016 at 1:29 pm
Researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory have predicted that atomic-scale 3D printing techniques could be used to create stronger, lighter, and smarter materials. Focused electron- and ion-based m... […]
via Bing News