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IBM Plans to Go Silicon-Free in the Future


IBM is moving beyond the age of Silicon, and is now studying the possibility of using correlated electronic systems for their transistors.

According to a report on InfoWorld, the silicon-free transistors now being studied by the company will require less power than the current ones used today. Also, these transistors will apparently work like the human brain, which means it has a significantly higher capacity for operations than Silicon transistors.

The new transistors will be made primarily from strongly correlated materials. These materials will supposedly create stronger and more energy-efficient computation circuitry.

Stuart Parkin, an IBM fellow at the company’s research program, said in the report that conventional transistors are nearing its end after having been used for about 50 years. This sounded like an end of an era in terms of computing since silicon-based transistors and chips have been used for a wide range of computer hardware.

Parkin said that the company needs to search for alternatives since it is no longer possible to use silicon-based transistors for the next decades. Of course, he added there isn’t a large number of avenues to go from silicon materials. Thankfully though, the correlated electronic systems can work wonders for computation circuitry.

In order to do this, Parkin and his team had to convert metal oxides to a conductive state from the current insulated state it is being used. The metal oxides would have to be applied with oxygen ions. The details of this research can be found in the Science journal.

Researchers also found a way to change the way that conventional transistors require a small voltage to control a larger current passing through a transistor. Instead of the small voltage requirement, this research uses another approach to switch the material into its conductive state.

Previous approaches include subjecting strongly correlated materials under stress or temperature changes, but this cannot be done if the company is planning to use the materials in mass-produced circuitry. What the researchers did is to inject oxygen molecules into the materials. This way, there will be no need for conventional approaches when producing circuitry from silicon-free transistors.

IBM’s new approach is said to be more energy efficient and effective than conventional Silicon transistors. In this new approach, the transistors would be nonvolatile, which means they won’t require a small voltage to change or maintain its state.  The transistor would probably only need one charge instead of the regular small-voltage charges, the report said.

A lot of developments have been going on in the computer industry. Transistors are going silicon-free. The communication between optic fibers are being exploited. IBM’s research on the eventual use of silicon-free transistors brings engineers and software and hardware developers into a new age where more efficient and energy-saving technology will be the norm.

Perhaps, once IBM finalized this new approach, there will also be a focus on other aspects of computer chips whose decades-old efficiency is being put in question. Since technology has evolved in more ways than we can count, the 21st century is just a good time as any start searching for alternatives.

Source: InfoWorld

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