A three-year international project led by
Computer power doubles on average every 18 months — a process known as
Central to the project will be discovering a way to produce microwave energy on a small scale by firing electrons into magnetic fields produced in semiconductors that are only a few atoms wide and layered with magnets.
The process, called inverse electron spin resonance, uses the magnetic field to deflect electrons and modify their magnetic direction. This creates oscillations of the electrons that make them produce microwave energy, which can then be used to broadcast electric signals in free space without the weakening caused by wires.
Dr Alain Nogaret at
He claimed that getting more power from silicon chips by shrinking their components is a limited approach, with conventional technology a finite resource.
The technology will also allow the development of integrated circuits that will continue to work even if some of its connections fail. The system can be programmed to re-route itself so it can continue working. Currently, should wiring fail at any point, an integrated circuit will fail, meaning the new approach offers significant cost savings.
‘One other area for the technology is that if we have a wireless connection rather than a fixed one, we could build flexible architecture
that could be routed around defects on the chip. At the moment if there was one transistor defective out of one million the chip has to be thrown away,’ said Nogaret.
Such flexibility would be welcomed by an industry in which manufacturers of integrated circuits have no room for error.
The advantage of the new, flexible system is that only 95 per cent of the electric components would need to operate for the chip to function, so it would be significantly cheaper to produce.
Over the life of the project Nogaret will work with colleagues to assemble and fabricate the device at
Not only could this technology improve the speed of computers by 500 times, Nogaret believes it may assist in medical diagnostics, by raising the speed and accuracy with which data can be gathered from health monitoring sensors.
In this instance, the microwave emitters are small enough to be integrated on portable biological sensors. Nogaret admitted,
however, that this is very much a long-term aim.
The university will receive £463,000 for the project.
An international project led by Bath University could make computers up to 500 times faster by dispensing with the need for wires to carry electric currents in silicon chips.