London, Nov 22 : A new generation of ultra-low-power computers may soon be a reality, courtesy microchips that process information without moving electrons.
The conventional computer chips process information in the form of electric charges and transmitted by physically moving electrons from one place to another.
Using this technique, engineers were able to pack numerous transistors onto a single chip.
However, as transistors become smaller, tiny variations in the structure of the materials they are made from can affect the smooth electron flow, which makes it difficult to guarantee that neighbouring transistors are alike.
Current studies have suggested that electrons possess a property called spin, similar to the spin of a basketball that can also carry information.
Electron spin can be made to represent a 0 or a 1 of digital code by aligning it with or against a magnetic field.
Unlike the conventional way, the information can be sent in the form of a "spin wave" that travels through the cluster of electrons in a conductor.
However, the researchers are still looking at different ways of processing the data carried by the spin waves.
A research team from University of California, Los Angeles, has created the first logic gate a few micrometres long that can process the data carried by spin waves.
Lead researcher Kang Wang revealed that electrons are zapped with a magnetic field to create waves. The waves then flow along transmission lines buried in the chip and are processed by making them interfere
These logic gates have the potential to work on a much smaller scale than conventional transistors because they do not rely on a flow of electrons The researchers revealed that packing large numbers of these devices onto a microchip could lead to ultra-low-power computers.
"The spin wave logic device is very elegant from a physical point of view, but whether it will really make a device is very difficult to say," New Scientist quoted Del Atkinson from Durham University in the UK as saying.