The main bottleneck in the development of smaller but more powerful computers is the challenge of creating ultra-fast computer memory.
Recent investigations into the radiation emitted by terahertz waves may hold they key to the faster, more efficient computer memory in the near future.
What is Terahertz Radiation?
Terahertz radiation has a few aliases, including T-Rays, submillimeter radiation and terahertz waves.
No matter the name, this form of radiation occupies wavelengths of 1 millimeter down to 30 micrometers that correspond to frequencies from 0.3 to 3 terahertz.
Why Terahertz Radiation is Attractive for Computing
T-rays are non-ionizing, meaning that the given photons are not energetic enough to cause harmful radiation.
This form of radiation is also versatile: when waves are directed towards different materials, they are reflected in some, propagated through others, and absorbed by the rest.
Consequently, terahertz waves are often used to scan for and identify concealed weapons including explosives.
“A team of European and Russian scientists has found that such cell resets can be made more energy efficient and 1,000 faster by using terahertz radiation.”
Furthermore, they are also employed to identify defects in metals and even screen skin layers for cancerous cells.
T-Rays Mean Faster Memory Cells Reset
The basic building block of any computer memory is the memory cell, which stores one bit of binary information. The cell is set to store logic 1 and reset to store logic 0.
Because all information is encoded in binary, the set/reset process is, therefore, a continuous process, with the speed of execution determining a computer’s overall responsiveness.
Currently, cell resets in computer memory are completed using magnetic fields.
However, a team of European and Russian scientists has found that such cell resets can be made more energy efficient and 1,000 faster by using terahertz radiation.
If terahertz waves can be successfully utilized in computer memory, it may mean the dawn of faster gaming computers, and also make it possible to develop smaller, more powerful computers to be integrated into Virtual Reality headsets.
“While non-ionizing forms of radiation like T-rays are considered safer than others, ‘safer”‘does not mean completely ‘safe’.”
Furthermore, T-Rays in computing may help facilitate the development of commercially viable quantum computers.
Concerns Over Radioactive Computing
The team involved in the study admits that the working computer that uses terahertz radiation is still years away from reality.
However, assuming the practical issues of creating terahertz waves computers are overcome, another particularly sticky issue scientists would have to handle safety.
While non-ionizing forms of radiation like T-Rays are considered safer than others, “safer” does not mean completely “safe.” For example, one study has found that terahertz radiation may interfere with gene expression and DNA replication, making long-term exposure to the rays potentially harmful to human health.
Further study on potentially adverse health effects as well as how to best integrate the rays into computing is necessary, but T-rays are certainly promising for faster, more efficient computer memory in the near future.