This could be a step toward molecular computing -- building circuits up from molecules rather than carving them out of silicon as a way to max out Moore's Law and make the most powerful conventional computers possible.
Moore's Law began as an observation that the number of transistors in an integrated circuit doubles every two years, doubling the density of processing power. Molecular computing is widely believed to be Moore's Law's end game, but many obstacles stand in the way, one of which is heat transfer.
Heat - Problem - Computing - Components - Strings
"Heat is a problem in molecular computing because the electronic components are essentially strings of atoms bridging two electrodes. As the molecule gets hot, the atoms vibrate very rapidly, and the string can break," said Edgar Meyhofer, U-M professor of mechanical engineering.
Until now, the transfer of heat along these molecules couldn't be measured, let alone controlled. But Meyhofer and Pramod Reddy, also a professor of mechanical engineering at U-M, have led the first experiment observing the rate at which heat flows through a molecular chain. Their team included researchers from Japan, Germany and South Korea.
Aspects - Years - Heat - Flows - Reddy
"While electronic aspects of molecular computing have been studied for the past 15 or 20 years, heat flows have been impossible to study experimentally," Reddy said. "The faster heat can dissipate from molecular junctions, the more reliable future molecular computing devices could be."
Meyhofer and Reddy have been building the capability to do this experiment for nearly a decade. They've developed a heat-measuring device, or calorimeter, that is almost totally isolated from the rest of the room, enabling it to have excellent thermal sensitivity. They heated the calorimeter to about 20 to 40 Celsius degrees above the room temperature.
Calorimeter - Gold - Electrode - Tip - Thousandth
The calorimeter was equipped with a gold electrode with a nanometer-sized tip, roughly a thousandth the thickness of a human hair. The U-M group and...
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