October 2, 2008

Nanoelectronics: Computer Heat Solution?

U.S. scientists say they're turning to nanoelectronics to help solve the problem of computer heat generated by ever increasing processing speeds.

Researchers at the University of Virginia's School of Engineering and Applied Science hope to lay the scientific groundwork that will solve the problem with nanoelectronics.

"Lap tops are very hot now, so hot they are not 'lap' tops anymore," said Assistant Professor Avik Ghosh. "The prediction is that if we continue at our current pace of miniaturization, these devices will be as hot as the sun in 10 to 20 years."

To resolve that problem, Ghosh and Professor Mircea Stan are re-examining the Second Law of Thermodynamics, which says left to itself, heat will transfer from a hotter unit to a cooler one -- in this case electrical computer components -- until both have roughly the same temperature. That's a state called "thermal equilibrium."

But if computers could be made with nanoelectronic components that operate outside thermal equilibrium, Ghosh and Stan said that might solve the problem.

"These theories have been looked at from a physics perspective for years but not from the perspective of electrical engineering," Stan said. "That's where we are trying to break some ground."