Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Terahertz computers may be within reach

The Gigahertz race was probably one of the most ill-fated ideas in the microprocessor industry in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Intel was almost brought down to its knees by the enormous power consumption and heat dissipation of 3+ GHz speeds in circuits of the time, eventually hitting a wall at 4 GHz. The Gigahertz race has now become a multi-core race, but scientists have ideas to ramp up the clock speed at a faster pace again: Terahertz computers may be within reach – if data is carried over optical instead of electrical circuits.

“Electronic circuits today work at gigahertz frequencies – billions of cycles per second,” Nahata stated. “In this study, we’ve demonstrated the first step toward making circuits that use terahertz radiation and ultimately might work at terahertz speeds or a thousand times faster than today’s gigahertz-speed computers.”

While research on terahertz waveguides have existed for about a decade, Nahata claims that his team was able to show “how to make these waveguides on a flat surface so that you can make circuits just like electronic circuits on silicon chips.”

“All we’ve done is made the wires” for terahertz circuits, Nahata says. “Now the issue is how do we make devices [such as switches, transistors and modulators] at terahertz frequencies"”

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