The Delph scientists were able to build a superconducting version of a critical electronic component. Will this lead to computers running hundreds of times faster than current, as the research leader claims?
We want to get used electronics Supergliding: The phenomenon that at low temperatures some materials no longer have electrical resistance. This will allow you to make the circuits much faster and cheaper, it hopes.
It’s a shame we do not have a superconducting variant of a Diode: A component that conducts current well in one direction, but not in the other. As early as the 1970s, IBM realized that this shortcoming was a barrier to access to a computer running on superconductivity.
Now Delph researchers have succeeded in making such a superconducting diode. An important step towards the computer revolution – or is it too much?
Not very practical
The basis of the superconducting diode is the so-called Josephson junction. It’s basically a sandwich with two superconductors on the outside and nothing but superconnecting in between.
Normally, such a Josephson junction would not act as a diode, but previous researchers had succeeded in making one out of it. The problem with this is that magnetic fields always had to be used. This makes such a diode impractical, explains research leader Maser Ali Press release“Magnetic fields of nanometer scale are very difficult to control and limit.”
A few atoms are solid
Ali and his colleagues have now succeeded in doing the same thing without magnetic fields. They have, they write In the journal Science NatureDeveloped the “Field-Free Josephson Diode”.
The material between the superconductors is critical. This is not a ‘normal’ substance, but a so-called quantum material: a compound of niobium and bromine with the chemical formula Nb3Br8മെറ്റ This material has a two-dimensional structure, as Ali says ‘Wonder Material’ GrapheneThis allowed the researchers to coat only a few atoms of their sandwich with a thick layer. With that, the whole thing started to work as a diode.
Even at high temperatures?
As for applications, Ali says: “Technology that was previously only possible in semiconductors can now be made possible with the help of this building block with superconnectors.” This includes computers that are three to four hundred times faster than the computers we use today, he continues.
At present superconductors operate only at low temperatures. For example, the superconductor used by Ali in his diode achieves zero resistance at temperatures below -266.55 C. As a next step, Delft researchers want to see if the same strategy can be repeated with materials that become superconducting at high temperatures.
But for now you’re still talking about chips running at -200 degrees Celsius. So you will find them much faster Server farms And Supercomputers, And then on your home computer. But Ali does not see it as a big opposition. “All intensive calculations are now being done in centralized facilities,” he says. “Existing infrastructure can be adapted to electronics based on superconducting diodes without unnecessary costs.”
It seems like a big step towards better computers. Is that so? Not according to Bram NauthaUniversity Professor at the University of Twenty Creator of the nauta switch“This is good basic research, there is nothing wrong with that, but the promises are very speculative and not based on how computers work,” he says.
“You can’t build computers with diodes,” Nauta continues. “You need an amplifying element in a computer so you can ‘pimp’ them and zeros when they sink. You must also be able to convert one to zero. This is not possible with diodes. Moreover, a superconductor expends tremendous energy for cooling; The minimum loss of a ‘bare’ superconductor is much higher than what you save.
In short: good work, but the picture of the future that Ali paints is probably a little rosy.
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