Scientists have added a crucial tool to the atomic-scale manufacturing toolkit with major implications for today’s data driven—carbon intensive—world, according to new research from the University of Alberta in Canada.
“Computers today are contributing one gigatonne of carbon emissions to the atmosphere, and we can eliminate that by enhancing the most power-hungry parts of conventional computers with our atomic-scale circuitry,” said Robert Wolkow, professor in the University of Alberta’s Department of Physics a Principal Research Officer at the National Research Council of Canada’s Nanotechnology Research Centre, and chief technical officer of Quantum Silicon Inc, a spinoff company taking the technology to market. “This new tool better enables an ultra-efficient kind of hybrid computer for the training of neural networks for artificial intelligence.”
The latest finding speeds up the atomic-scale manufacturing process, taking advantage of a natural physical phenomenon. Hydrogen molecules seek out and automatically repair errors in atomic-scale circuitry and can be used to significantly improve the rewriting speeds of atomic data storage. This work builds on the decades-long dedication by Wolkow’s research group to realizing the potential for atomic-scale manufacturing, something that has shifted from an idealistic dream to an ever more likely reality in the next few years.
“It will take a couple of years, but there’s an actual path to atomic-scale devices that will be very impactful for our world,” said Roshan Achal, lead author on the new discovery, currently completing his Ph.D. with Wolkow. “And we now have this faster and better application of atomic memory, which will only continue to improve with time.”
Achal explained the technical process of moving hydrogen molecules at the atomic level scales up in efficiency as electronic circuits and memories increase in size, translating to easier mass production of low-power electronics with more memory and faster functioning.