Sep 16 2012

Nanorelays: Moving Back To Move Forward


A while back I wrote an article for H+ on the five most common errors I saw being made in many future predictions, one of which I called linearism, i.e. the assumption that any given technological development requires a linear path to development, proceeding from step A to step B to step C and so on. It’s an easy assumption to make because despite the parallel processing our brain uses, we tend to view things linearly because of our perceptions of time. But this is a bad assumption because technology doesn’t actually get developed in a linear fashion. While Technology B does often follow from Technology A, it also quite frequently takes paths that might seem completely random, and sometimes even seems to proceed backwards before leaping forwards again.

And right now, one of those “leaps backwards” could be an answer to making highly energy efficient nanoscale processors. As a recent EETimes article points out, some researchers are investigating the use of nanoscale relays — mechanical switches of a kind rarely used since the development of transistors — as a means to overcome the problem of “leakage current” i.e. electrical power wasted in an electronic circuit when a transistor is “off” but still transmitting considerable electrical currents due to various “breakdowns” in the materials used to “insulate” the circuit. As transistors grow smaller, this problem has grown to a point where “leakage current” can amount to nearly half of a circuits’ overall energy usage.  It’s also one of the current “hurdles” to making fully functional graphene electronics. While there have been massive improvements in the “on/off” modes of electrical flow in graphene, and it has reached a stage where it can potentially be used for making processors, the ultimate goal of any nanoscale logic circuit is to have zero leakage when a switch is “off”. Nanoscale relays could make that  possible.

How? By making an actual physical connection necessary for current to flow. Nanoscale relays use an “arm” that can be bent a tiny amount. This arm passes over a “gate” which can use an electrostatic charge to draw the arm down to touch a “drain” in order to make an electrical connection. When no charge is on the gate, the arm straightens back out, and breaks the connection. In essence, this is exactly identical to the electrical forces in a transistor, but because of the actual physical “break”, it has much higher resistance to any form of electrical current flow, and therefore almost no “leakage current.”

Another advantage to such a system is that it can likely be incorporated very easily into current efforts to make graphene and other “film electronics”, and accelerate their development. I could easily see such “relays” being used between two sheets of graphene separated by a layer of boron nitride, or even between who knows how many thousands of layers to make a highly efficient 3d circuit. Additionally, such physical relays are far more resilient to radiation and heat, making them far less vulnerable to EMP or overheating.

There are still many issues that need to be overcome, such as verifying the ability of the arms to remain functional after many billions of “bends” and, of course, proving that such NEMs can integrated into “film” electronics. But it’s looking likely that by stepping back to the dawn of computing, and the enormous computers built entirely of relays like the Harvard Mark 1, we might just be able to make a giant leap forward.

Mar 18 2012

“Welstone” Leads To Programmable Matter


Imagine, if you will, a lump of clay sitting in your hand. It looks just like any other lump of clay, but this one is very different. With a thought, you can command it to become anything. And I do mean anything. You can make it become a solid lump of diamond, or coal, even a mushroom, as well as a fairy to dance on it. With a wave of your mind, it could be a toy robot, or a stuffed animal, or even an iPhone. It could be a sheet of paper, or an elegant ball gown, or a basketball. It wouldn’t matter what object you wanted it to be, it could shift and change, becoming exactly what you desire.

Sounds pretty unbelievable, no? Kind of like a magical gizmo instead of anything technological, no? And yet this “clay” is neither magic, nor impossible, but is an idea conceived by Wil McCarthy, a physicist and author. He called this fantastic device “Welstone.” In his book Hacking Matter, McCarthy discusses a unique quirk of nature – the fact that when properly set up, a quantum well device is capable of being used to create an artificial “atom” composed entirely of electrons. Unlike a normal atom, this artificially created atom is nucleus free, composed only of the “shells” of spinning electrons, but interacts nearly identically to a normal atom. “Welstone” is a concept McCarthy developed that proposes using this ability to create artificial atoms via a nanodevice whose surface is composed entirely of quantum wells – thus “wel”stone – to enable us to create “programmable matter,” that lump of “clay” I discussed above.

Until now, this concept has been little more than science fiction. But that is beginning to change. In a recent press release, The DoE’s SLAC laboratory discusses how they have managed to create what appears to be a precursor to Welstone. This “Molecular Carbon” has enabled researchers to perform a variety of experiments in which the properties of graphene are duplicated by using electrons to create “virtual graphene” which can be manipulated in ways that cannot be done with real graphene.

“To make the structure, which Manoharan calls molecular graphene, the scientists use a scanning tunneling microscope to place individual carbon monoxide molecules on a perfectly smooth copper surface. The carbon monoxide repels the free-flowing electrons on the copper surface and forces them into a honeycomb pattern, where they behave like graphene electrons.

To tune the electrons’ properties, the researchers repositioned the carbon monoxide molecules on the surface; this changed the symmetry of the electron flow. In some configurations, electrons acted as if they had been exposed to a magnetic or electric field. In others, researchers were able to finely tune the density of electrons on the surface by introducing defects or impurities. By writing complex patterns that mimicked changes in carbon-carbon bond lengths and strengths in graphene, the researchers were able to restore the electrons’ mass in small, selected areas.”

By using the ability to create “virtual carbon atoms” composed only of electrons, the researchers can much more freely play with the properties of graphene, and study how it reacts under conditions ranging from high bond stress to levels of magnetic fields even beyond those currently achievable by even the strongest of our current magnets — all this despite the fact that those magnetic fields don’t actually exist. (For further information I recommend Next Big Future’s follow up with links to the researcher’s publications.)

While this is just a beginning, it should be obvious how the ability to create virtual graphene can be extended to the creation of other virtual atomic structures, and even eventually to the ability to use the knowledge gained from such manipulation of electrons to make devices able to create any arbitrary virtual atom, even those in the “superheavy” ranges. It should also be obvious how it could also lead to the eventual ability to use “virtual atoms” to manipulate real atoms to create engineered atomic structures and enable the creation of nanofactories. While such developments are indeed still many years off, it does look like Wil McCarthy’s “Welstone” just took a step out of the pages of sci-fi and into reality.

Jan 16 2012

Le Future According To Val, Part One: When Technologies Meet, Interact, and Things Go Boom.


So here we are in the year 2012, which far too many people predict will be the year the world ends. Some believe in cosmic disaster; some believe aliens will make contact; some believe “God” will “return” and magically wipe away everyone who doesn’t believe “the right things”. All of them share a single common problem — a complete lack of evidence of any sort.

Yet even among those who dismiss these “doomsdagry predictions,” you find those who proclaim dooms of a different sort, such as claims that we are fast approaching the “death of innovation” or even the “death of advanced civilization.” Even these predictions are hindered by a lack of any provable evidence, and joined by a single common theme — fear of the future.

There is a reason for this. The future is a very scary place. Not because we have reached an ending, which in reality, we certainly have, but because so few people can see beyond that ending to the birth that will follow. This isn’t a unique situation, as we’ve been through similar processes previously, most notably following the invention of the printing press that lead to the end of the Catholic Church’s monolithic existence by sparking the protestant revolution; made reading a common skill and enabled the Renaissance. More recently, we experienced the industrial revolution that has lead to our current world. It’s this “world” that is reaching its end. But this is neither doom, nor a disaster, even though it will most certainly be chaotic and sadly cost far too many lives as we make a transition from our present reality into an entirely new and different one.

It’s this new and different reality that I see coming that underlies everything I have written, and that has caused some to call me all sorts of names — from wild eyed optimist to certified lunatic. The names are pretty meaningless, because they simply reflect the inability of many to grasp the connections and implications of the various technologies I report on. For this, I must apologize, since there are so many interconnections that it is hard to give a complete picture. That is, however, the purpose of this two part article — to give a brief overview of the connections and describe how those connections interact to produce the end result that I perceive.

To begin, I view the human animal as driven primarily by two instincts, which in combination produce the overwhelming majority of the complex behaviors of the human race. The first instinct is survival. We are genetically programmed to survive. And as part of this instinct, we form collectives, because collectives are a mechanism that promotes our survival. The second instinct is reproduction. We are genetically programmed to compete for sex. Note I specifically say sex because for the majority of history, mankind has been seeking ways to get more sex without the reproductive aspect coming into play. Sex is the universal drive. Actual reproduction is secondary.

It is the interplay of these two drives that leads us to form collectives to promote our common survival, and then to compete within those collectives for sex, which leads to the creation of Pecking Orders. I discuss this far more fully in my blog post, On Government, which also discusses the interplay of these instincts to create the “Status Game” that underlies much of human activity. The “Status Game” is one of the primary drivers that I look at for analyzing any given technology. In essence, I ask myself “how will this technology be used to increase or decrease an individual’s status, and how will this affect the pecking order.” Almost any technology will have an effect on the pecking order, though that effect is not always immediately apparent. There are many other aspects I examine as well, many of them I covered in my H+ article, “A Peek into the Demoness’s Mind,” but my primary focus is always “how will this affect the status quo” Why? Because it’s the social aspects of technology that truly dictate how a technology will be used, how it will spread through society, and ultimately determine what impact that technology has on our world.

And it’s that social impact that primarily determines what technologies I report on, because certain technologies have the long term effect of being what I call “Great Levelers” in that, regardless what of their immediate short term effects are, in the long term they all show the extreme likelihood of “leveling the field” and effectively removing many of the “Pillars” that support the near vertical pecking order of our current era, and will cause that pecking order to essentially collapse into a nearly horizontal one in the not too distant future, which will directly result in a world in which the overwhelming majority of causes of human suffering, war, crime, and injustice will no longer exist.

So with that clarified, let’s see where it all goes, shall we?

In my initial articles on H+, I opened up with a discussion on VR, and how we have arrived at the stage of “good enough VR,” then proceeded to discuss the “Metaverse” — the combined worldspace of augmented reality, virtual reality and the mirror reality. And then, I finished discussing how I saw VR as the “Gateway” to the “Big Three” of Genetics, Nanotech, and Robotics.) Since then I’ve written on the numerous advances in graphene, 3D printers, and the possibility of extreme body modification. Looked at singly, these each have extremely large potential for disruptive upheaval, which I discuss in the relevant article and their commentary, but their largest effects will happen at the intersection where all of these technologies will synergistically magnify their effects on the pecking order. In short, they meet, interact, and things go boom.

You are likely all aware of Moore’s Law and the exponential increase in computing power it has successfully predicted for decades. What you might not be aware of is that once we begin incorporating graphene and CNTs into advanced processors, that law is going to be obsolete because the rate of increasing computing power will likely leap several orders of magnitude almost overnight. That massive increase in computing power in and of itself may not seem that significant until you begin to realize many of the other potentials inherent in the use of graphene electronics, some of which I covered here in “Here Comes Film Computing.” Graphene is not merely useful for making processors, but displays, cameras, lidars, solar cells, and basically nearly every single form of electronic device we currently have figured out how to make. But beyond its uses in electronics, graphene has amazing structural properties. A sheet the thinness of cellophane would be strong enough to support the weight of an elephant while still retaining near perfect optical transparency. As such, it has the potential to replace nearly every material we currently use to construct almost every manufactured product from knick-knacks to skyscrapers. When you combine both of these uses, you might begin grasping some of the massive impact graphene will begin having in the very near future as we begin manufacturing massive quantities of it. Carbon is only the single most abundant element in the world and roll-to-roll manufacturing of massive sheets of graphene has already been accomplished.

So to truly understand the impact that graphene will have requires looking at it from several directions at once, most of which many people find brain bending in the extreme. Imagine a world in which nearly every single manufactured product is not only constructed from graphene, but incorporates graphene electronics, and in which nearly every single visual characteristic is controllable, and likely many non-visual ones as well. Imagine a toothbrush that has bristles you can make soft or stiff as you please, clothes that change their fit and appearance depending on whether you are at work or at the bar. Imagine a world in which all these things are available for minimal cost because they are all made from carbon; and produced on demand using fractions of ounces of actual material. A world in which everything is programmable, customizable, and interactive. Imagine cars that you have to place weights in to keep from blowing away in a strong wind, but which can bounce like rubber when you somehow manage to crash head on into another car, absorbing almost all of the force of impact without harming the passenger while taking no damage from impact. A world in which nothing ever needs a repair because if something malfunctions, you toss it into the recycler and print out a new one. A world in which no product of a material nature has any value at all because it can be instantly reproduced, copied endlessly, and improved upon by anyone, where any product manufactured out of iron or wood or stone is considered junk because it is such an inferior, clunky, and unintelligent material to build from.

Then I would like you to consider the next layer. Add to this world of ultracheap carbon based products, a “Mirror” of reality, a cyber universe that merges the virtual and the real, in which the very world you move through is an interactive computer interface. A world where every person you look at, talk to, or interact with is just as programmable, customizable and interactive as the scenery around you. Where your “personal space” is as malleable as a dreamscape. Imagine a world in which a combination of prosthetics, bioprinters, and even mere virtual costumes could make it possible for every single person in the world to be their own personal “perfect” self, regardless of what that self might be, or even if that self changes from day to day. Imagine a world in which you record your every moment of existence to enable you to possess perfect recall; where even the very sensations you experience could be recorded and replayed whenever you desire. Visualize a world wherein the entirety of all human knowledge is available; in which everyone from adult to child has access to the finest professors of every subject at a mere inquiry. Visualize a world in which science itself is no longer the play-toy of a few; where knowledge is no longer a commodity available to only those who can pay; but free for every single human being on the planet to pursue to their hearts content. Think about a world in which every single desire and fantasy can be fulfilled, in which all the darkest, most secret fantasies you ever masturbated to could be simulated.

That last one probably threw you for a loop, didn’t it? But it really shouldn’t have, because I did say at the beginning of this article that sex is one of the primary drivers of human behavior. Seriously, I am a succubus precisely because that fact. I assure you, sex will be a major factor at play in the creation of “perfect selves,” regardless of if that self is merely a perfected version of your basic appearance or if you choose such a radically different appearance such as myself. And this is where the social aspects of all of this technology really begin that synergistic mixing that leads to boom.

Consider a reality in which everyone is Superman. One in which everyone is a “hottie;” in which every single person in the world looks like a porno model, regardless of race sex or species. Because with the combination of graphene processors, 3d printed carbon based “smart materials”, VR, and biomodification via stemcells, that is the inevitable direction I see things progressing.

If you are like many people, you are probably screaming no at the top of your lungs; certain that a world so very radically different than the one you are used to will ever be possible. The problem here is that you don’t truly understand how the “status game” works.  The pecking order exists to enable our DNA to merge “the best” (itself) with “the best” (a mate with superior DNA).  How this drive manifests itself differs in each gender, as well as in how strongly it manifests from person to person, but that is meaningless to the “pecking order,” which is how we decide “superior” from “inferior.” We compete to determine who is “better.” Wealth, power, good looks, and a thousand other “markers” have been created merely to allow our DNA to find and merge with the best other human DNA it can find. That’s it. Everything else is complications we’ve invented as smart apes to hide from each other the fact that all we really want to do is get into each other’s pants. Even us geeks want our chosen mates to desire us for our “big brains” so that we can bump uglies as often as we can. You might want to deny this fact, but I’ll lay you odds that the reason why you want to deny it will be because you will be afraid admitting this truth could lead to less nookie.

So, now that you are suitably outraged, let me direct your attention to an H+ article by my friend Hank Pellissier on Sexbots.

I particularly recommend reading all of the comments, and yes, I am aware it is a very long read since there are a lot of them, because they cover an enormous set of issues, not the least of which is the depth to which people will lie to themselves about sex and gender roles. However, to save time for those of you doing the tl;dr thing, I will quote the original point I made in response, which is far down the page.

“Sex is everywhere. No-one in our culture can avoid being exposed to it. But at the same time, we deny it constantly. Its okay for a kid to watch the cold blooded killing of a hundred people in an action movie, but heaven’s forbid he watches Debbie Does Dallas. Go online, and well, as everyone knows, the internet is for porn.

And even that isn’t the craziest thing we do. Our teens are raised to view dating as a war between a girl trying to stay a virgin, and the boys trying to get her to put out by any means possible. Any girl who fails to stay a virgin is a slut, and any boy who fails to get laid is a faggot.

We worship action heroes who treat the opposite sex as momentary pleasures, and who’s ability to get between their co-stars legs is taken for granted. We tell our kids in every single way possible SEX IS GOOD, while hypocritically trying to tell them it’s bad.

Second Life is often times ridiculed as a “pornoverse” but to be brutally honest about things, SL has sex poses, fetish gear, and everything else you can think of to appeal to the pervert in you for one reason, and one reason alone.


Released from the restraints of public hypocrisy people want to release their pent up libidos.

And now we are going to be entering the age of VR. As Joe Quirk said in the latest issue of H+, we’re looking at a future where clothes are going to be a joke. Between those sext messages you sent on your phone, scanning technology that will map your body to the nanometer of accuracy for 3d modeling, and AR that can put those two together to create an “X-ray” app, your modesty will cease to exist.

Sexbots? As controversial as they may sound now. we probably won’t even notice them growing more popular. To many VR people like me will be busy breaking down social taboos and inhibitions to make sexbots seem like much of anything.

And when those sexbots can act as surrogates? XDDDDDD

Needless to say, every last bit of tech applied to sexbots will also end up as a cybernetic enhancement option as well. Can we say the end of erectile dysfunction and the death of K-Y?

So, as a succubus, you could just say I’m simply preparing for the inevitable, and definitely highly sexual, future.”

I am making this point because the ability of all of this emerging technology to create such a “leveling” effect as I discussed earlier is tied into this basic driver of the “Status Game.” Personal appearance is a marker because it determines “sexiness” on one level and “genetic superiority” on another. Wealth is a marker because it is another sign of “genetic superiority”. At every level, the higher up the “pecking order” you are, the more our genetically driven instincts make us want to have sex with you. Additionally, the higher up the pecking order you are, the greater the demands you make for tribute as a reward for being “superior” and the greater the number of people you find to be undeserving “inferior” beings. We are programmed to desire greater status and instinctively embrace anything we perceive as granting it. It’s a pied piper we have chased for all our existence, equaled by only one other desire… immortality.

And it’s the lure that will pull us inevitably towards faster computers, better VR, greater ability to manipulate our own bodies, and better sex. And that is where the consequences come in.

To be continued.

Oct 23 2011

Graphene: And Here Comes “Film” Computing


You might recall I’ve talked about graphene repeatedly, and yes, this is yet another piece about it. In one H+ magazine article I discussed some of the remarkable properties of graphene. In this one I touted a few developments that highlighted exactly how fast graphene developments were being researched. Just recently, I discussed IBM making a working graphene broadband frequency mixer and how it proved that graphene was well on its way to practical use in the electronics industry.

If you recall, I also spoke about the major remaining hurdle to graphene processors being how it reacted to being layered on a chip, and clinging to the “hills and valleys” of the silicon, making it cease to be a superconductor. I also discussed a couple of possible work arounds, one of which was layering graphene on a boron nitrate surface. Well, here we are just a few months later, and what do I read but this?

That’s right. Layer graphene like an oreo filling between two layers of boron nitride effectively eliminated the “hills and valleys” effect, creating an “isolation” zone in which graphene is effectively uninfluenced by its environment. This means that the last hurdles to using graphene in electronics are falling fast, and that electronics using nothing but carbon are theoretically possible.

Yes, you heard that right. I already discussed the methods for creating graphene “nanoribbon” circuits, squared “U” transistors, controlled graphene “magnets”, quantum well “Qdot” displays, and other electronics devices. Now imagine putting all of these advances into one single device.

Because you see, I already did, several years ago, during my first articles on VR. I’ve been watching graphene development intensely because I have long known that sooner or later they would solve the issues and that “film” computers could be a possible result.

What is a “film” computer? It should be pretty obvious given the article referenced above. Imagine a “sheet” of BN/G/BN, in which the graphene layer has been patterned into a variety of electronic devices, from batteries to processors to memory, etc. For the sake of simplicity, lets imagine that layer has the rough computing power of a single iPhone G4. Now, add a hundred more layers, maybe even a few thousand more, until that “sheet” is as thick as a piece of paper. If you are truly imagining that, the amount of computing power I’m discussing here is a little scary. Then let’s add a few more layers, configured to be cameras, display pixels, and solar panels.

What does that give us? How about a iPad like device in which the entire surface acts like a display and camera, enabling touch screen like interaction over the entire surface. Imagine it weighing so little that the wind could blow it around, yet being able to offer all the power of a corporate data center’s worth of computers. Imagine it never needing to be plugged in because it’s powered by ambient light and can store several months worth of energy from a few hours exposure.

Sound radical? An iPad on steroids? Let’s take that sheet of “paper” and wrap it around our eyes. Hell make it a few thousand more layers thick and you still will barely approach enough weight to be noticeable. Toss in a few hundred lidars and you’ve got a basic VR rig that overlays your vision and turns your entire world into an interactive computer interface. Layer it between cloth and your entire wardrobe could have more computing power than the fastest super computer of today. Cover your wall in it and you could play your favorite FPS life sized.

That’s what I mean by “film” computing. Being able to layer processing power over or in nearly anything. Silicon cannot do this, because it is rigid and inflexible, but graphene’s material and electronics properties lead to entirely new possibilities in both electronics and product design. Once we learn how to “print” graphene circuits, we could be applying them to nearly everything, for almost any purpose.

And this news is just one more step towards that future. Piece by piece, the puzzle is coming together.

Jun 16 2011

Graphene Breakthrough: Things Are Only Going To Get Faster From Here


It seems like every time I turn around there’s a new “breakthrough” in graphene news.

Don’t know what graphene is? Well, I’ve written about it before over at H+ magazine and R.U. asked me to write a follow up following the latest bit of news that IBM has built a complete circuit — a broadband frequency mixer — from graphene. For those of you not familiar with electronics, a broadband frequency mixer is one of the most basic of integrated circuits, one that converts a signal from one frequency to another, i.e. audio range frequencies into radio, or even the different frequencies of audio in a equalizer. As a demonstration of the utility of graphene in electronics, only making a functional logic circuit would be more impressive.

When I wrote about Graphene for H+ and its potential for computers, people working in the field hadn’t yet come upon a couple of hurdles that needed to be overcome. The first was that graphene has a low bandgap, which basically means that you can’t fully turn off a graphene transistor the way you could a silicon one. In some applications, like radio electronics, this would be fantastic. But for computers, it was a huge problem, because all logic circuits are basically on/off switches. Some people thought that would be a killer problem, but it turned out to be resolvable. This is because graphene is a very remarkable material.

Graphene is composed of a single sheet of atoms, being essentially a two dimensional plane, so it has some very different properties than most 3 dimensional materials. For example, the shape of a piece of graphene effects its electrical properties. If it’s bent, or wrinkled, those properties change, and even the shape of a “trace” (those flat ribbon wires that you see on any circuit board) effects it. By making a squared off U-bend shaped transistor, the bandgap problem suddenly disappeared, enabling a bandgap nearly a thousand times higher than all previous attempts to make transistors. They still don’t know why changing the shape makes such a dramatic change, but this increase basically eliminated the worries about graphene digital circuits.

But that wasn’t the only worry.  Researchers discovered that their original notion —  that they could use graphene the same way copper was used in integrated circuits — wasn’t going to be feasible. The same effect that solved the bandgap issue caused a problem when layering graphene on silicon. The imperfections of the silicone surface created “pools” of low energy states, so rather than traveling through the graphene like it had when the graphene layer was isolated from a surface, electrons just kind of settled into the pools and stayed there.

In many ways, electricity acts like water, so it makes a handy visualization tool. Silicon is a crystal matrix, and small imperfections in this crystal structure create areas of localized positive and negative charges. Positive charges act like “hills,” while negative charges act like “valleys.” When single layer graphene was layered on silicone, it conformed to the “hills” and “valleys” of the silicon, rather than maintaining its “flatness.” And because shape has such a powerful effect on graphene, these hills and valleys introduced “resistance” into graphene that wasn’t there in its isolated state.

Now, this wasn’t a “killer” problem either because it would have eventually been possible to create all-graphene circuits, but it did appear to be a damper on the immediate applications of graphene in current electronics, because it eliminated one of graphene’s biggest advantages — its ability to conduct electricity, nearly like a superconductor, at room temperatures. The fact that it got far worse in the presence of a magnetic field, causing electrons to basically come to a standstill, seemed to be a barrier that would be difficult to overcome.

While they were looking for solutions to these issues, researchers discovered that molybdenum had many characteristics in common with graphene and, unlike graphene, was also a semiconductor. It also had a bandgap much higher than had been possible with graphene, prior to their discovery of something called the squared u trick. But research into molybdenum’s potentials was far behind the research on graphene, meaning it would likely take years for researcher’s to learn enough about its properties for I to be very useful.

Fortunately, right around the time the discoveries about molybdenum hit the news, the discovery about the U shaped bend transistor came out, followed by news that layering graphene on boron nitride virtually eliminated the problem with the “pooling” electrons by eliminating the “wrinkles” Soon thereafter, researchers discovered that graphene transistors are self-cooling

In earlier articles for H+ on this topic, I discussed how the lower resistance of graphene was likely to allow the creation of processors that ran thousands of times faster than current ones, but with the same amount of electricity and heat generated.  Now it appears that graphene chips will actively cool themselves. In other words, unlike silicon, the chips will not need cooling.  This promises to eliminate one of the biggest headaches in electronics.

Heat control is a significant factor in both size and power consumption in nearly all electronics devices. A self-cooling integrated chip could be miniscule, since they will no longer require the plastic “cases” that move heat out of the actual chip and transfer it to a cooling system. Even circuit board design will be effected.  We will no longer have to place heat producing components far apart so they don’t overheat each other.

With regard to the news of IBM’s frequency mixer, one little detail immediately caught my eye: “The researchers demonstrated the circuit at up to 10GHz, and showed this level of performance was stable at up to 127°C.” That’s 260.6F, people!… far past the point where your computer processor overheats and goes into thermal breakdown. Taken together with the news about graphene’s self-cooling properties, it shows that graphene is likely to be functional in nearly any environment we can put it in — great news for a future of rugged portable electronics. But to get to the real news, you have to read a little further. It’s this line: “The method will work with existing optical lithography, IBM said, and can be applied to graphene films created by chemical vapour deposition. This means existing fabs would not need massive revamping to start using graphene in earnest.”

That’s the real point you need to understand. My little history lesson above is all about illustrating the importance of these words, and the real point that IBM is making.

I ended my earlier H+ article with this line: “In other words, graphene could begin making its way into computers as early as 2012 to 2015, and almost certainly by 2020.”

IBM couldn’t wait. This is only the beginning, and merely a proof of concept, but the gauntlet has been thrown. Graphene has come out of the lab and into the real world.

Welcome to the GHz Wars Version 2.0.  Things are only going to get faster from here.