QUANTUM DOTS PAVE WAY FOR ATOM-SIZED TRANSISTORS

October 27, 2000

SCIENCE & ENGINEERING NEWS

Rochester, N.Y. — Engineers at the University of Rochester have created uniform silicon quantum dots-molecule-sized crystals of silicon that could someday offer computer manufacturers an economically viable way to slip beneath an impending limit to computer power. Every year computer makers squeeze more transistors onto each chip by designing smaller and smaller transistors; quantum dots take that trend to the extreme, reducing the central building block of a chip to a simple device just a few atoms across.

“In less than 10 years we’ll either have to find new ways to make transistors smaller, or the computer industry will halt its progress and stagnate,” says Philippe Fauchet, professor of electrical and computer engineering and co-creator of the dots. Since chip manufacturers are fast approaching the smallest size that they can make conventional transistors, they’re scrambling into the quantum world to create transistors of a very unconventional sort.

Scientists have been trying for years to make quantum-size transistors, which could be turned on or off by single electrons and would dramatically reduce a chip’s appetite for power. So far, most attempts have used expensive materials like indium gallium arsenide, but the new dots are made of silicon, which is cheap, plentiful, and already an integrated part of the semiconductor industry. The dots are of uniform size and shape, a necessity for computing and an achievement that has eluded previous attempts.

“Making quantum dots of silicon is much more practical than using some exotic material,” says scientist Leonid Tsybeskov of the University. “Silicon is readily available and the industry has much experience processing it. If we’re looking to move the computing industry from conventional transistors to quantum dots, we have to make the move as painless as possible.”

The switch is somewhat analogous to moving from gasoline to electric cars: The infrastructure for gasoline is already entrenched, so it’s easier to introduce a gasoline-electric hybrid that uses the current infrastructure than an all-electric vehicle that demands a whole new transport system, new refueling stations, and so on.

In an effort to create that smooth transition, a team of experts from the United States, Germany, France and Canada formed the Nanoscale Silicon Research Initiative (NSRI) and dedicated themselves to creating the dots from silicon, the mainstay of the electronics industry. NSRI is funded by the National Science Foundation, Army Research Office, Motorola and Semiconductor Research Corporation. Tsybeskov is the director of NSRI and lead author of the paper that appears in the Sept. 21 issue of the journal Nature detailing the team’s success.

“This had to be a worldwide effort,” says Tsybeskov of the research team that created the dots. “Material science is expensive, so this achievement demanded cooperation among people of different countries.” Much of that cooperation came in the form of shared equipment, such as expensive transmission electron microscopes to see what form the tiny crystals took, or programmable ovens that could warm up from room temperature to thousands of degrees in less than a minute.

Quantum dots made from materials other than silicon are used in some limited ways today, including highly efficient light emitters that help biologists track single cells, but engineers believe they could also power new computers to speeds unimaginable today. The strange world of quantum mechanics allows a dot transistor to be both on and off at the same time, and computer scientists are looking to exploit the dots in ways that make today’s gigahertz chips the equivalent of a slide rule.

Efforts at making quantum dots from silicon have resulted in inconsistent dots of varying size and shape, making them useless for computing needs. Most scientists gave up the effort. Eventually, after many attempts, the University of Rochester researchers discovered a heating process that produced regular, even crystals. The team found that by heating the silicon to more than 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit and cooling it repeatedly inside a nitrogen atmosphere, silicon begins to organize itself into orderly rows of crystals, like bricks just a few atoms wide.

Eventually, these dots could be linked together to make a complete circuit. Millions of dots would be laid out on a chip much like today’s transistors, though one of the great upcoming hurdles will be to devise a way to keep the dots insulated from one another, yet able to communicate. Whole computer chips checkered with dots could be faster than today’s supercomputers while only being the size of a pinhead, if engineers are successful in putting the quirks of the quantum world to work to form the basis of computers.

Tsybeskov and Fauchet will next look into how to place the silicon dots into a usable pattern on a chip so that the dots may perform calculations.

“There’s a very good chance that, if everything goes well, the industry will be making quantum-based computers within the next 10 years,” says Fauchet, referring to the impending size limit. “And if not in 10 years, they’d better do it pretty shortly thereafter.”

============================================================

Subscribe to HPCwire's Weekly Update!

Be the most informed person in the room! Stay ahead of the tech trends with industy updates delivered to you every week!

Discovering Alternative Solar Panel Materials with Supercomputing

May 23, 2020

Solar power is quickly growing in the world’s energy mix, but silicon – a crucial material in the construction of photovoltaic solar panels – remains expensive, hindering solar’s expansion and competitiveness wit Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Nvidia Q1 Earnings Top Expectations, Datacenter Revenue Breaks $1B

May 22, 2020

Nvidia’s seemingly endless roll continued in the first quarter with the company announcing blockbuster earnings that exceeded Wall Street expectations. Nvidia said revenues for the period ended April 26 were up 39 perc Read more…

By Doug Black

TACC Supercomputers Delve into COVID-19’s Spike Protein

May 22, 2020

If you’ve been following COVID-19 research, by now, you’ve probably heard of the spike protein (or S-protein). The spike protein – which gives COVID-19 its namesake crown-like shape – is the virus’ crowbar into Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Using HPC, Researchers Discover How Easily Hurricanes Form

May 21, 2020

Hurricane formation has long remained shrouded in mystery, with meteorologists unable to discern exactly what forces cause the devastating storms (also known as tropical cyclones) to materialize. Now, researchers at Flor Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Lab Behind the Record-Setting GPU ‘Cloud Burst’ Joins [email protected]’s COVID-19 Effort

May 20, 2020

Last November, the Wisconsin IceCube Particle Astrophysics Center (WIPAC) set out to break some records with a moonshot project: over a couple of hours, they bought time on as many cloud GPUS as they could – 51,000 – Read more…

By Staff report

AWS Solution Channel

Computational Fluid Dynamics on AWS

Over the past 30 years Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) has grown to become a key part of many engineering design processes. From aircraft design to modelling the blood flow in our bodies, the ability to understand the behaviour of fluids has enabled countless innovations and improved the time to market for many products. Read more…

HPC in Life Sciences 2020 Part 1: Rise of AMD, Data Management’s Wild West, More 

May 20, 2020

Given the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the massive enlistment of major HPC resources to fight the pandemic, it is especially appropriate to review the state of HPC use in life sciences. This is somethin Read more…

By John Russell

HPC in Life Sciences 2020 Part 1: Rise of AMD, Data Management’s Wild West, More 

May 20, 2020

Given the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the massive enlistment of major HPC resources to fight the pandemic, it is especially appropriate to re Read more…

By John Russell

Microsoft’s Massive AI Supercomputer on Azure: 285k CPU Cores, 10k GPUs

May 20, 2020

Microsoft has unveiled a supercomputing monster – among the world’s five most powerful, according to the company – aimed at what is known in scientific an Read more…

By Doug Black

AMD Epyc Rome Picked for New Nvidia DGX, but HGX Preserves Intel Option

May 19, 2020

AMD continues to make inroads into the datacenter with its second-generation Epyc "Rome" processor, which last week scored a win with Nvidia's announcement that Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Hacking Streak Forces European Supercomputers Offline in Midst of COVID-19 Research Effort

May 18, 2020

This week, a number of European supercomputers discovered intrusive malware hosted on their systems. Now, in the midst of a massive supercomputing research effo Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Nvidia’s Ampere A100 GPU: Up to 2.5X the HPC, 20X the AI

May 14, 2020

Nvidia's first Ampere-based graphics card, the A100 GPU, packs a whopping 54 billion transistors on 826mm2 of silicon, making it the world's largest seven-nanom Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Wafer-Scale Engine AI Supercomputer Is Fighting COVID-19

May 13, 2020

Seemingly every supercomputer in the world is allied in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic – but not many of them are fresh out of the box. Cerebras S Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Startup MemVerge on Memory-centric Mission

May 12, 2020

Memory situated at the center of the computing universe, replacing processing, has long been envisioned as instrumental to radically improved datacenter systems Read more…

By Doug Black

In Australia, HPC Illuminates the Early Universe

May 11, 2020

Many billions of years ago, the universe was a swirling pool of gas. Unraveling the story of how we got from there to here isn’t an easy task, with many simul Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Supercomputer Modeling Tests How COVID-19 Spreads in Grocery Stores

April 8, 2020

In the COVID-19 era, many people are treating simple activities like getting gas or groceries with caution as they try to heed social distancing mandates and protect their own health. Still, significant uncertainty surrounds the relative risk of different activities, and conflicting information is prevalent. A team of Finnish researchers set out to address some of these uncertainties by... Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

[email protected] Turns Its Massive Crowdsourced Computer Network Against COVID-19

March 16, 2020

For gamers, fighting against a global crisis is usually pure fantasy – but now, it’s looking more like a reality. As supercomputers around the world spin up Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

[email protected] Rallies a Legion of Computers Against the Coronavirus

March 24, 2020

Last week, we highlighted [email protected], a massive, crowdsourced computer network that has turned its resources against the coronavirus pandemic sweeping the globe – but [email protected] isn’t the only game in town. The internet is buzzing with crowdsourced computing... Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Global Supercomputing Is Mobilizing Against COVID-19

March 12, 2020

Tech has been taking some heavy losses from the coronavirus pandemic. Global supply chains have been disrupted, virtually every major tech conference taking place over the next few months has been canceled... Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

DoE Expands on Role of COVID-19 Supercomputing Consortium

March 25, 2020

After announcing the launch of the COVID-19 High Performance Computing Consortium on Sunday, the Department of Energy yesterday provided more details on its sco Read more…

By John Russell

Steve Scott Lays Out HPE-Cray Blended Product Roadmap

March 11, 2020

Last week, the day before the El Capitan processor disclosures were made at HPE's new headquarters in San Jose, Steve Scott (CTO for HPC & AI at HPE, and former Cray CTO) was on-hand at the Rice Oil & Gas HPC conference in Houston. He was there to discuss the HPE-Cray transition and blended roadmap, as well as his favorite topic, Cray's eighth-gen networking technology, Slingshot. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Honeywell’s Big Bet on Trapped Ion Quantum Computing

April 7, 2020

Honeywell doesn’t spring to mind when thinking of quantum computing pioneers, but a decade ago the high-tech conglomerate better known for its control systems waded deliberately into the then calmer quantum computing (QC) waters. Fast forward to March when Honeywell announced plans to introduce an ion trap-based quantum computer whose ‘performance’ would... Read more…

By John Russell

Fujitsu A64FX Supercomputer to Be Deployed at Nagoya University This Summer

February 3, 2020

Japanese tech giant Fujitsu announced today that it will supply Nagoya University Information Technology Center with the first commercial supercomputer powered Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Leading Solution Providers

SC 2019 Virtual Booth Video Tour

AMD
AMD
ASROCK RACK
ASROCK RACK
AWS
AWS
CEJN
CJEN
CRAY
CRAY
DDN
DDN
DELL EMC
DELL EMC
IBM
IBM
MELLANOX
MELLANOX
ONE STOP SYSTEMS
ONE STOP SYSTEMS
PANASAS
PANASAS
SIX NINES IT
SIX NINES IT
VERNE GLOBAL
VERNE GLOBAL
WEKAIO
WEKAIO

Tech Conferences Are Being Canceled Due to Coronavirus

March 3, 2020

Several conferences scheduled to take place in the coming weeks, including Nvidia’s GPU Technology Conference (GTC) and the Strata Data + AI conference, have Read more…

By Alex Woodie

Exascale Watch: El Capitan Will Use AMD CPUs & GPUs to Reach 2 Exaflops

March 4, 2020

HPE and its collaborators reported today that El Capitan, the forthcoming exascale supercomputer to be sited at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and serve Read more…

By John Russell

‘Billion Molecules Against COVID-19’ Challenge to Launch with Massive Supercomputing Support

April 22, 2020

Around the world, supercomputing centers have spun up and opened their doors for COVID-19 research in what may be the most unified supercomputing effort in hist Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Cray to Provide NOAA with Two AMD-Powered Supercomputers

February 24, 2020

The United States’ National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) last week announced plans for a major refresh of its operational weather forecasting supercomputers, part of a 10-year, $505.2 million program, which will secure two HPE-Cray systems for NOAA’s National Weather Service to be fielded later this year and put into production in early 2022. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Summit Supercomputer is Already Making its Mark on Science

September 20, 2018

Summit, now the fastest supercomputer in the world, is quickly making its mark in science – five of the six finalists just announced for the prestigious 2018 Read more…

By John Russell

15 Slides on Programming Aurora and Exascale Systems

May 7, 2020

Sometime in 2021, Aurora, the first planned U.S. exascale system, is scheduled to be fired up at Argonne National Laboratory. Cray (now HPE) and Intel are the k Read more…

By John Russell

TACC Supercomputers Run Simulations Illuminating COVID-19, DNA Replication

March 19, 2020

As supercomputers around the world spin up to combat the coronavirus, the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) is announcing results that may help to illumina Read more…

By Staff report

Nvidia’s Ampere A100 GPU: Up to 2.5X the HPC, 20X the AI

May 14, 2020

Nvidia's first Ampere-based graphics card, the A100 GPU, packs a whopping 54 billion transistors on 826mm2 of silicon, making it the world's largest seven-nanom Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!
Share This