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With all the new smartphones, mobile devices and apps we hear about these days, it’s easy to forget about the lowly computer chip that enables us to use all this wonderful technology. While Moore’s law may seem to be slowing down, research is not. Scientists across the globe are coming out with new chip designs and construction techniques sure to propel computer development for the coming decades.
Researchers from MIT, Columbia University and IBM have been collaborating to integrate the recently discovered material graphene into modern computer chip designs. The most exciting thing about these new chips is that they may be able to run on light, not the electricity used by every microprocessor today. Light hitting the chips knocks electrons free from the layer of graphene, creating an electrical current. Theoretically these greener chips will consume less power and generate less heat, and could even be cheaper and faster to manufacture – a win for both technology and the environment.
Quantum computing has taken another step forward through recent experiments at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich. Scientists there have had success teleporting bits of information across a computer chip from one electron to another through the quantum physics property of entanglement. When two quantum bits, or qubits, are entangled they form a connection to one another where a change in one of the bits causes the other to change as well. Quantum computers have the potential to exponentially increase computing power over the semiconductors in use today through another property called superposition, in which qubits can be both on and off (0 and 1) at the same time.
The granddaddy of the computer chip manufacturers has been busy too. Intel has recently announced the new Quark X1000 processor family which it claims are small enough, energy efficient enough, yet still powerful enough to be placed in many everyday objects, further adding to the so-called “Internet of Things.” These tiny sensing, computing and most importantly connected devices should be able to provide data that cities, states and even individual homeowners can use to create smarter places to live and work. Intel isn’t alone in this venture however, as competitor ARM is also working to install miniscule chips in millions of microcontrollers.
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