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Microwave technique spells faster future for computers
[June 28, 2006]

Microwave technique spells faster future for computers

(Electronics Weekly Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge)
By Harry Yeates

A recently-developed technique for generating microwaves could significantly increase the speed of computers.

Microwave signals could enable faster data processing as they avoid the parasitic losses associated with metal tracks in conventional chips.

?This is a new process for generating microwaves, where instead of using the charge on the electron we use the spin magnetic moment of the electron,? said Dr Alain Nogaret, a physicist at the University of Bath who developed the technique.

?We use semiconductor devices that produce an inhomogeneous magnetic field. As we inject a current through this field there is a spin resonance process which occurs and generates microwaves,? said Nogaret.

The effect uses a two-dimensional electron system. Nogaret said GaAs is appropriate, and graphene ? a single layer taken from bulk graphite, which scientists can now produce ? can also be used.

Modulating data into the microwave signals could be achieved via a simple gate.

?We can control the frequency at which the microwave is emitted by applying a voltage,? said Nogaret. ?So the frequency of the emission will be controlled by a gate voltage, and we can switch on and off by injecting a current between the drain and the source.?

?We would embed the transistors inside coplanar waveguides. These could have antennas, if it?s a matter of transmitting signals between chips which are far apart, but within the same wafer we would have a coplanar waveguide.?

The plan is to use the technology to build a computer with a defect-tolerant architecture, inspired by HP?s Teramac machine, so either material or manufacturing inconsistencies can be handled by changing the ?wiring? topology.

The project, which starts in October and involves the universities of Nottingham, Leeds, St Andrews, is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. The University of Antwerp and the French research institute CNRS are also participating.

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