Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

New computer switches handle heat that renders transistors useless; Work takes a page from Victorian inventor

Date:
October 7, 2010
Source:
Case Western Reserve University
Summary:
Researchers have built electromechanical switches to replace transistors in high-heat computing.

Researchers at Case Western Reserve University have taken the first step to building a computer capable of operating in the heat of a jet engine or the sunny side of the planet Mercury.

Te-Hao Lee, Swarup Bhunia and Mehran Mehregany, have made electromechanical switches -- building blocks of circuits -- that can take twice the heat that renders electronic transistors useless. Their work was published in Science last month.

The engineers took their cue from English inventor Charles Babbage, who built a steam-driven machine to calculate mathematical tables in the 1830s. The group applied nanotechnology to make switches fit today's ever-smaller computing platforms.

After configuring the switches into an inverter, they found the devices continue to work at more than 500 degrees Celsius -- resilient enough to work inside engines of cars, jets and rockets, in deep underground drilling, even on the surface of Venus and Mercury.

"They work because they're mechanical and made of silicon carbide, which is robust at high temperatures," Bhunia said. "The switches operate in high heat and radiation, at lower voltage and higher density and perform better than transistors designed to operate in high heat."

While transistors have the advantage of no moving parts, they deteriorate at about 250 degree Celsius and leak electrons excited by the warmth, voiding the ability to accurately relay the current that moves data in computers.

To avoid those problems Lee, a PhD student, and Bhunia and Mehregany, professors of electrical engineering and computer science, decided to build switches of heat tolerant material and in a form in which, much like a light switch, mechanical levers make contact to pass current or break contact to halt current.

The group used electron beam lithography and sulfur hexafluoride gas to etch the switches, just a few hundred nanometers in size, out of silicon carbide.

The result is a switch that has no discernable leakage and no loss of power in testing at 500 degrees Celsius.

A pair of switches were used to make an inverter, which was able to switch on and off 500,000 times per second, performing computation each cycle. The switches, however, began to break down after 2 billion cycles and in a manner the researchers do not yet fully understand.

"We made a building block," Bhunia said. "Next, we're trying to make memory. If we can combine them, we can build a computer."

He and the others are confident that with improvements in production, they can build more durable switches that can cycle faster.

Whether they can reach the point of competing with faster transistors for office and home and even supercomputing, remains to be seen. The researchers point out that with the ability to handle much higher heat, the need for costly and space-consuming cooling systems would be eliminated.

Their effort is funded by U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Case Western Reserve University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. T.-H. Lee, S. Bhunia, M. Mehregany. Electromechanical Computing at 500C with Silicon Carbide. Science, 2010; 329 (5997): 1316 DOI: 10.1126/science.1192511

Cite This Page:

Case Western Reserve University. "New computer switches handle heat that renders transistors useless; Work takes a page from Victorian inventor." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 October 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/10/101007103652.htm>.
Case Western Reserve University. (2010, October 7). New computer switches handle heat that renders transistors useless; Work takes a page from Victorian inventor. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/10/101007103652.htm
Case Western Reserve University. "New computer switches handle heat that renders transistors useless; Work takes a page from Victorian inventor." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/10/101007103652.htm (accessed July 24, 2014).

Share This




More Matter & Energy News

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Robot Parking Valet Creates Stress-Free Travel

Robot Parking Valet Creates Stress-Free Travel

AP (July 23, 2014) 'Ray' the robotic parking valet at Dusseldorf Airport in Germany lets travelers to avoid the hassle of finding a parking spot before heading to the check-in desk. (July 23) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Boeing Ups Outlook on 52% Profit Jump

Boeing Ups Outlook on 52% Profit Jump

Reuters - Business Video Online (July 23, 2014) Commercial aircraft deliveries rose seven percent at Boeing, prompting the aerospace company to boost full-year profit guidance- though quarterly revenues missed analyst estimates. Bobbi Rebell reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Europe's Car Market on the Rebound?

Europe's Car Market on the Rebound?

Reuters - Business Video Online (July 23, 2014) Daimler kicks off a round of second-quarter earnings results from Europe's top carmakers with a healthy set of numbers - prompting hopes that stronger sales in Europe will counter weakness in emerging markets. Hayley Platt reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
9/11 Commission Members Warn of Terror "fatigue" Among American Public

9/11 Commission Members Warn of Terror "fatigue" Among American Public

Reuters - US Online Video (July 22, 2014) Ten years after releasing its initial report, members of the 9/11 Commission warn of the "waning sense of urgency" in combating terrorists attacks. Mana Rabiee reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins