Feeds

Electro/photonic 'Excitonic' cryo-computing breakthrough

You thought your data centre was chilly

Intelligent flash storage arrays

Boffins in California say they may be on their way to developing new, superfast "excitonic" computers. The latest experiments have seen hybrid electronic/photonic integrated circuits functioning at "around 100" degrees Kelvin, which - while extremely cold - is much more practical to achieve than the previously necessary 1.5°K.

"Our goal is to create efficient devices based on excitons that are operational at room temperature and can replace electronic devices where a high interconnection speed is important," says Leonid Butov, physics prof at UC San Diego.

Excitons are made up of two negatively charged electrons and positively charged "holes". They can be created using light in a semiconducting material such as gallium arsenide, and when the holes and electrons combine the exciton decays into a flash of light once more.

It's already common to connect electronic assemblies using photonic links for greater speed, and some researchers aspire to fully photonic, much faster machines in future. But Butov and his crew suggest that "excitonic" computing could be a better/more feasible method. It would offer the ability to use electrical manipulation for computing as current kit does, and the ability to build compact integrated devices too, but avoid the delay and extra equipment required for photonic comms.

"Our transistors process signals using excitons, which like electrons can be controlled with electrical voltages, but unlike electrons transform into photons at the output of the circuit," says Butov. "This direct coupling of excitons to photons allows us to link computation and communication."

Last year the first excitonic integrated circuit was tested, but it would only work at almost absolute zero - a temperature so cold that it wouldn't be feasible even in the most aggressively chilled data centre. But now Butov and his crew have got prototype excitonic building blocks working at temperatures achievable with nothing fancier than ordinary liquid nitrogen.

Even so, sysadmins probably won't be resting their ice-cube trays on the excitonic cryo-cabinets for a while yet.

"We're still in an early stage of development," cautions Butov. "Our team has only recently demonstrated the proof of principle for a transistor based on excitons and research is in progress."

The latest research can be read online by subscribers to Nature Photonics here. ®

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
'Kim Kardashian snaps naked selfies with a BLACKBERRY'. *Twitterati gasps*
More alleged private, nude celeb pics appear online
Wanna keep your data for 1,000 YEARS? No? Hard luck, HDS wants you to anyway
Combine Blu-ray and M-DISC and you get this monster
US boffins demo 'twisted radio' mux
OAM takes wireless signals to 32 Gbps
Google+ GOING, GOING ... ? Newbie Gmailers no longer forced into mandatory ID slurp
Mountain View distances itself from lame 'network thingy'
EMC, HP blockbuster 'merger' shocker comes a cropper
Stand down, FTC... you can put your feet up for a bit
Apple flops out 2FA for iCloud in bid to stop future nude selfie leaks
Millions of 4chan users howl with laughter as Cupertino slams stable door
Students playing with impressive racks? Yes, it's cluster comp time
The most comprehensive coverage the world has ever seen. Ever
Run little spreadsheet, run! IBM's Watson is coming to gobble you up
Big Blue's big super's big appetite for big data in big clouds for big analytics
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
The next step in data security
With recent increased privacy concerns and computers becoming more powerful, the chance of hackers being able to crack smaller-sized RSA keys increases.