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New Chip Design Promises Terahertz Processors

Scientists at the University of Rochester have come up with a new "ballistic computing" chip design that could lead to 3,000-gigahertz — that's 3-terahertz — processors that produce very little heat.

Marc Feldman, professor of computer engineering at the university, characterizes the design, the Ballistic Deflection Transistor (BDT), as radical. "There's a real problem for standard transistors to keep shrinking," he says. The BDT doesn't have a capacitance layer that becomes problematic at very small scales the way current transistor designs do.

Quentin Diduck, the graduate student at the University who came up with the idea, describes the BDT as the next step on the evolutionary track after relays, tubes, and semiconductors.

The BDT, according to the University of Rochester, "[bounces] the electrons into their chosen trajectories — using inertia to redirect for 'free,' instead of wrestling the electrons into place with brute energy." It functions more as an intersection for electrons than as a device that expends energy to stop and start them. Because of this approach, far less power is required.

The BDT relies on a layer of a semiconductor material called a "2D electron gas," which facilitates the transit of electrons without the interference of impurities.

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