Unbelievably Fast Processing for Nanoelectronics

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Singaporean researchers have developed something that could change the field of nanoelectronics–it might even lead to a miniaturization revolution.

I think we would all love it if our devices became exponentially more powerful.

In Industry 4.0, where all of our devices and infrastructure will be constantly connected, that isn’t beyond the realm of our expectations. It seems like every time I turn around, there’s something groundbreaking happening.

For instance, Elon Musk recently laid out a 5-year plan for Mars colonization, which you can read about here, and the benefits extended to us here on Earth.

That’s right, the BFR spaceship that will take us to Mars has also been proposed as a Earth-to-Earth travel medium that can get you from Tokyo to New York in 30 minutes.

Obviously, electronics are a huge part of why that’s possible.

Tech is becoming more advanced by the minute, and an important part of that advancement lies in miniaturization. If we can make our tech perform at the same level with less size, we can do more with our tech.

Take your phone, for example. These days it’s easy to get lost in the constant waves of new smart-phone tech, so much so, in fact, that this year’s iPhone is actually inferior to this year’s other iPhone, which you can read about here. Still, we shouldn’t take for granted that many of these confusing new features are possible thanks to miniaturization.

Miniaturization makes for better devices. #better #faster #morestorageClick To Tweet

As luck would have it, we may be on the verge of another revolution in miniaturization, this time through nanoelectronics.

electronics
Imagine all of this at the size of a couple of electrons | Karynav | Shutterstock.com

Creating electronics at the nanoscale is difficult and has faced limitations but those limitations may be a thing of the past. Researchers from the National University of Singapore have developed a “converter” for nanoelectronic devices that could allow them to use plasmons for data processing.

To understand why that’s so important though, it’s best we start by explaining how nanoelectronic devices work.

Building Better Nanoelectronics

Usually, nanoelectronic devices utilize photons to transmit information. In nanoscale terms, however, photons are quite large, and so nanoelectronic design faces bit of a challenge in becoming smaller.

To address this dilemma, a research team at the National University of Singapore (NUS) has been experimenting with using a different source for transmitting information. They use plasmons, which are waves of electrons that ripple along the surface of a metal after it is hit by photons.

Plasmons are similar enough to photons. They move at the speed of light, for example. However, they distinguish themselves by being much, much smaller.

Plasmonics, however, is generally “time consuming and inefficient” according to Associate Professor Christian Nijhuis from NUS. He’s right. Or, at least, he was.

That’s what makes this research such a breakthrough.

Exciting plasmons traditionally takes two steps. You start with some electrons to generate light, then you excite the plasmons. This necessity limits how small you can make things, and thus puts a limit on the usefulness of nanoelectronics.

Or, at least, it did.

The research team used a custom “converter” to produce plasmons from electrons, or vice versa, in a single step.The fix not only speeds up the process, it also opens the door to smaller and smaller nanoelectronics. With all the applications for them, that is something that the world could really use.

Why Nanoelectronics are Important

Nanoelectronics could have huge implications for all kinds of fields, from computing technology all the way to medicine.

Computing tech is, arguably, the most obvious beneficiary. With nanoelectronic devices, processors could be made exponentially more powerful. Imagine a processor made of scores of smaller, nano-processors, and you’re not far off from what many researchers think is possible. They may even pave the way to quantum computers, and more advanced deep learning neural networks.

For something so tiny, nanoelectronics could make a huge difference in tech.Click To Tweet

The possibilities for nanoelectronics in medicine are also especially interesting, though. For example, some think that using nanoradios to transmit information directly from a patient’s bloodstream is possible. We could see entirely new approaches for biomonitors with a nanoradio transmitting up to date information straight from within a patient’s body.

At the end of the day, nanoelectronics essentially give us an avenue to miniaturize just about anything that uses processing power. Which is pretty much everything in this day and age.

What other kinds of tech do you think could benefit from nanoelectronics?

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