Researcher: Handheld supercomputers only 10-15 years away
Recent advances in nanowire technology could be the key to developing tiny processors
Computerworld - One nanotechnology researcher said supercomputers small enough to fit into the palm of your hand are only 10 or 15 years away.
"If things continue to go the way they have been in the past few decades, then it's 10 years," said Michael Zaiser, a professor and researcher at the University of Edinburgh School of Engineering and Electronics. "The human brain is very good at working on microprocessor problems, so I think we are close -- 10 years, maybe 15."
Zaiser's research into nanowires should help move that timeline along.
For the last five years, he has been studying how tiny wires -- 1,000 times thinner than a human hair -- behave when manipulated. He explained that each such miniscule wire tends to behave differently when put under the same amount of pressure. Therefore, it has been impossible to line them up close to each other in tiny microprocessors in a production atmosphere.
Zaiser said he's now figured out how to make the wires behave uniformly. He separates the interior material of the wire into distinct groups so the wire can't react as a whole. That makes it much easier to control. "It's like crowd control," he added. "If they can all go one way, you have a big mess."
These nanowires will go inside microprocessors that could, in turn, go inside PCs, laptops, cell phones or even supercomputers. And the smaller the wires, the smaller the chip can be.
Shrinking down the microprocessors is a big step toward shrinking down computers.
Zaiser was quick to point out that his nanowire discovery won't immediately lead to the development of supercomputers that can fit in the palm of a hand or even shrink down to the size of a book of matches. In addition to smaller microprocessors, engineers will need to deal with thermal fluctuations that erupt at that size.
But he does humbly admit that taming nanowires is a big step toward the goal of small supercomputers.
"This will enable chips to become much smaller," he said. "Think 10 years back. You could hold [a cell phone] the size of a telephone receiver and it didn't work so well. Today, you can fit what is a powerful computer onto a small device."
Charles King, an analyst at Pund-IT Inc. in Hayward, Calif., said with advances like nanowire technology continuing to come along, Zaiser's predictions for tiny supercomputers may not be so far off. And that will be a huge step for the industry, considering that not so long ago supercomputers filled up enormous rooms or even entire buildings.
"Actually, what he's saying is not crazy," said King. "The wire problem was an important one. Solving that particular issue, one so fundamental, needed to be done. If he can solve that, a lot of people, a lot of companies, will appreciate that. The industry is aligning in a direction where we're going to be seeing continuing improvements and developments."
- 15 Non-Certified IT Skills Growing in Demand
- How 19 Tech Titans Target Healthcare
- Twitter Suffering From Growing Pains (and Facebook Comparisons)
- Agile Comes to Data Integration
- Slideshow: 7 security mistakes people make with their mobile device
- iOS vs. Android: Which is more secure?
- 11 sure signs you've been hacked
- HP HAVEn: See the big picture in Big Data HP HAVEn is the industry's first comprehensive, scalable, open, and secure platform for Big Data. Enterprises are drowning in a sea of data...
- Piecing Together the Business Intelligence Puzzle Business intelligence (BI) technology collects and analyzes company data, delivering relevant information to corporate decision-makers in an effort to produce favorable outcomes.
- Harness IT -- An Introduction to Business Intelligence Solutions Learn the key selection criteria required to provide your organization with the capability to address structured data, unstructured data and mobile demands so...
- Business Intelligence Shows its Smarts Today's Business Intelligence (BI) tools provide a new way to think about data with self-service capabilities and user-friendly analytics that can be used...
- Cloud Knowledge Vault Learn how your organization can benefit from the scalability, flexibility, and performance that the cloud offers through the short videos and other resources...
- Testimonial: Cystic Fibrosis Trust Peter Hawkins, the Head of IT for Cystic Fibrosis Trust, discusses the role CommVault's Simpana software platform plays in improving the company's information... All Data Center White Papers | Webcasts