Nanotechnology research will use very small computer components which will require new computer designs.
Technology Research News says that "researchers from Communications Research Laboratory (CRL) in Japan have come up with a design for nanocomputers that would use less power, dissipate less heat, require less wiring, and be more reconfigurable than existing proposals."
The design is a type of cellular automata, which are large arrays of simple, identical components, or cells. Each cell can be switched between two states that can represent the 1s and 0s of computing. The cells communicate via signals generated by chain reactions along lines of cells.
We already heard about cellular automata. But the key differentiation is those ones are asynchronous.
The key to the architecture's advantages over existing proposals is that its circuits can handle randomly timed signals rather than requiring that all signals be synchronized by a central clock. Nearly all computer processors include a clock that coordinates the processor's workings by sending a time signal throughout its circuits. As computers become faster, it becomes more difficult and takes more energy to coordinate everything using a clock signal.
The no-clock architecture fits well with cellular automata, which are inherently asynchronous. "Our method to compute on asynchronous cellular automata boils down to simulating... delay-insensitive circuits on the cellular automata," said Ferdinand Peper, a senior researcher at Communications Research Laboratory and a visiting professor at Himeji Institute of Technology in Japan.
According to the researchers, their design is very efficient.
Computers made using the design would be able to process highly parallel applications as many as one billion times faster than today's computers, said Peper. These applications include artificial intelligence, which typically requires checking many possibilities in a search tree, simulations of neural systems, which employ a large number of neurons working in parallel, and simulations of physical systems, which project the interactions of large numbers of particles, he said.
Another key point is that you will be able to carry these computers.
The architecture could eventually be used to produce high-performance, low-power wearable computers running artificial intelligence applications that will supplement human communication and intellectual abilities, said Peper. "A high computational power is needed to process and interpret the signals received from humans," he said.
So when will we able to use these nanocomputers?
It will be at least 20 years before the architecture is ready for use in a practical computer built with single-molecule components, partly because molecular electronics is not a developed field, according to Peper.
Anyway, you don't have to wait 20 years before reading about this research. It was published by Nanotechnology in its April 2003 issue under the name "Laying out circuits on asynchronous cellular arrays."
If you are interested by the world of asynchronous computing, please read "Computers without Clocks (or Asynchronous Computers)." Or check this 'Asynchronous' Bibliography.
Source: Technology Research News, April 15, 2003
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