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Nanoscale electronic circuit suggests new possibilities for computers

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December 8, 2011

Scientists have created one of the smallest electronic circuits ever, and it has led to a ...

Scientists have created one of the smallest electronic circuits ever, and it has led to a discovery that could result in faster, more efficient computers

A team of scientists from Montreal's McGill University have successfully formed a circuit between two wires which were separated by a gap of only 15 nanometers - that's about the width of 150 atoms. It is reportedly "the first time that anyone has studied how the wires in an electronic circuit interact with one another when packed so tightly together." Along with being one of the smallest electronic circuits ever created, it has also led to a discovery that may have big implications for the world of computing.

The researchers were surprised to discover that each of the wires could be either positively or negatively affected by the other. In other words, the current in one wire could produce a current in the other that either flowed in the same direction, or in the opposite direction. According to the team, this discovery could lead to a reassessment of the current understandings regarding the behavior of electronic circuits at the nanoscale.

With this new knowledge in hand, it may now be possible to design integrated circuits in which the energy lost as heat in one wire could be harnessed by other neighboring wires. Not only would this put the waste heat to use, but it would also serve to disperse that heat, allowing computers to run cooler and thus more efficiently.

A paper on the McGill research was recently published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away.   All articles by Ben Coxworth
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