HP's New Technology Could Replace Transistors

by CXOtoday Staff    Feb 03, 2005

Researchers at HP have proven that a technology they invented could replace the transistor - the fundamental building block of computers for the last half century - leading to a new way to construct computers in the future.

In a paper published in the Journal of Applied Physics, three members of HP Labs’ Quantum Science Research (QSR) group has demonstrated a “crossbar latch,” which provides the signal restoration and inversion required for general computing without the need for transistors.

The technology could result in computers that are thousands of times more powerful than those that exist today. “We are re-inventing the computer at the molecular scale,” said Stan Williams, HP senior fellow and QSR director, and one of the authors of the paper.

“The crossbar latch provides a key element needed for building a computer using nanometer-sized devices that are relatively inexpensive and easy to build,” added Williams.

QSR works on nanoscale electronic devices that will first supplement, and someday perhaps replace, silicon technology, which is expected to reach its physical limits in about a decade.

The crossbar latches use a sequence of voltage impulses to the control lines and using switches arranged in opposite polarities. As a result they can perform the three basic operations that comprise the primary logic of a circuit and are essential for basic computer functions.

Additionally, the researchers said the new latch technology could also restore a circuit to its ideal voltage. That would let designers chain many simple gates together, allowing them to perform computations.

While current silicon transistor technology can also perform the same operations and restore signals, the researchers believe that transistors will not be able to shrink down to the size of a few nanometers and remain operable.

In addition to exploring the fundamental scientific principles of computing at the molecular level, QSR is also looking at architectural issues and determining how such tiny devices - thousands of which could fit across the diameter of a human hair - could be fabricated economically and in mass quantities.

Tags: HP