March 22, 2013
IBM’s Latest Microprocessors Inpsired By Human Brain
Michael Harper for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online
In accordance to Moore´s Law, the semiconductors of the future will have to continue to be improved upon year after year. IBM may already be getting a head start by taking some inspiration from the human brain to create their latest microchips.
Yesterday, IBM announced that they´ve been able to improve semiconductors on an atomic level using drops of ionic liquid. Today´s semiconductors require conventional electrical assistance to operate.
Under IBM´s new method, these semiconductors could be powered by the ionic liquid and even mimic the way the human brain operates. With this new approach, IBM could one day make a highly efficient chip which consumes less power. These chips could even go a long way to improve the battery life of today´s mobile devices. IBM´s work into developing this new procedure has been published in the journal Science.
“Our ability to understand and control matter at atomic scale dimensions allows us to engineer new materials and devices that operate on entirely different principles than the silicon based information technologies of today,” said IBM fellow at IBM Research Dr. Stuart Parkin in a statement.
“Going beyond today´s charge-based devices to those that use miniscule ionic currents to reversibly control the state of matter has the potential for new types of mobile devices. Using these devices and concepts in novel three-dimensional architectures could prevent the information technology industry from hitting a technology brick wall,” said Dr. Parkin.
At the heart of the process is one cubic millimeter of an ionic liquid electrolyte. This tiny droplet is able to transition between a positive and a negative charge, thereby giving the semiconductor its calculating power. This liquid process will also allow future chipmakers to produce even smaller semiconductors. Though Moore´s Law has accurately predicted the way by which computing technology advances, doubling upon itself with every generation, there are some physical limitations which are fast approaching. This new technique could remove these barriers and allow technology to continue to expand at its current clip.
IBM researchers also observed that this single drop of ionic liquid remained in a stable and metallic state, even once power had been removed from the semiconductor. This, say the researchers, is a phenomenon which could be used to store data in a more efficient and event-driven manner. This means data stored on a device could remain safely stored on the device even without power. Researchers also found that the ionic liquid did not change its negative or positive state until the opposite charge was applied. It´s this kind of event-driven behavior which could make future semiconductors all the more stable.
“We are using tiny currents of ions of atoms generated by these electrical signals to change the state of matter of this oxide material,” said Dr. Parkin in an interview with VentureBeat. “It is a means to build low-energy, highly efficient devices by turning on and off their conducting state. We turn this material into a metal and maintain it without any need to supply power.”
IBM´s research isn´t looking to replace silicon but to create a brand new class of processors. While these ionic processors have the advantage of efficiency and stability, Dr. Parkin says the currents flowing through the ionic liquid move much more slowly than currents in silicon.