Home Sciences A new technology will speed up current computers a million times

A new technology will speed up current computers a million times

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A new technology will allow computers to process information a million times faster than today. Based on light wave electronics, it creates logic gates that can manage information at the speed of petahertz, the maximum allowed for optoelectronic phenomena.

Researchers at the University of Rochester (New York) and the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg (FAU) in Germany have developed a new type of logic gates that use laser pulses, operate on femtosecond time scales, and are a million times larger. times faster than current computers.

A logic gate is a electronic circuit which has the same behavior as a logical function. It is used to program and give instructions to a computer. It is like an electrically controlled switch, capable of rectifying, modulating or amplifying electrical currents.

Logic gates are present in most electronic circuits: by means of electrical voltage, they manage the trains of ones and zeros that form the binary system used by computers to store information.

laser energy

The new type of logic gate proposed by scientists is based on the laser energy. This technology is known as light wave electronics: Applied to logic gates, it makes them work much faster than current logic gates.

While traditional logic gates have a delay in processing information in the order of nanoseconds, the new logic gates process information at the speed of femtoseconds: the nanosecond represents one billionth of a second, while a femtosecond constitutes one billionth of a second. part of a second.

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Translated into computational terms, this technological development will allow computers to measure processing speed on the petahertz (PHz) scale, compared to the gigahertz (GHz) scale used today.

This achievement, still potential, is extremely important, because a recent study had calculated that the processing speed has an insurmountable limit for optoelectronic phenomena: it cannot go beyond one petahertz (one million gigahertz), even if the material is optimally excited with laser pulses.

electronics and light

Assessing this result, the FAU explains that the computing speed of computer and smartphone processors is given by the so-called field effect transistorswhich use the electric field to control the shape and conductivity of a circuit.

These transistors are getting smaller and smaller in order to squeeze as many of them into microchips: the latest transistors are just 0.000005 millimeters in size, the equivalent of a few atoms. It will surely not be possible to make smaller transistors, according to the FAU.

For this reason, and although modern computers already run at the impressive speed of several gigahertz, which translates into several billion computer operations per second, physicists have been working for a long time to control electronics with light waves.

The oscillation of a light wave lasts approximately one femtosecond. Controlling electrical signals with light could make future computers a million times faster, which is the goal of petahertz signal processing, or lightwave electronics.

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light in current

FAU researchers have been investigating for several years how light waves can be converted into current pulses. In their experiments, they illuminate a structure of graphene and gold electrodes with ultrashort laser pulses. These pulses induce electron waves in the graphene, which move towards the gold electrodes, where they are measured as pulses of current and can be processed as information.

Physicists at FAU have been able to show for the first time that this method can be used to operate a logic gateand thus achieve a more powerful processing of the incoming binary information (0 and 1).

The logic gate requires two input signals, which in the new development are electron waves of real and virtual charges, excited by two synchronized laser pulses.

It will probably be a long time before this technology can be used in a computer chip, but the researchers emphasize that the importance of their work lies mainly in having confirmed that light wave electronics is a viable technology for building logic gates.

Reference

Light-field control of real and virtual charge carriers. Tobias Boolakee et al. Nature volume 605, pages251–255 (2022). DOI:https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-022-04565-9

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