Friday, December 05, 2008

First superconducting transistor - now a reality

The holy grail for electronics in general and for computers in part has been a way to boost speed and efficiency while at the same time dealing with the heat that comes from ultra fast switching.

It has been well known for many years that certain materials brought near to the temperature of absolute zero drastically change their electrical properties. Many materials that do not even conduct electric current are able to do so and at no resistance, when chilled to near absolute zero.

Transformers and wires become ultra efficient when electrical connections and electronic forces no longer hold back current. However one component has eluded researchers for many years. The transistor.

Many devices use switches to control voltage and current. One of the most common switches and also one of the most efficient is the transistor. Much like a relay it can handle high current and is able to be controlled easily and fast. But the price of this speed is heat. The faster it is switched the hotter it will become. Cooling is only a stop-gap as transistors work much less efficiently when chilled below their operating range.

Now researchers at the University of Geneva in Switzerland have had success at building a crystalline structure that they can turn on and off at will at 3 tenths of a degree above absolute zero. The result is a superconducting version of the field effect transistor. Computer CPUs running these transistors would run significantly faster than the present gighertz speeds.

<- NewScientist tech ->

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