I have seen various estimates that say that total scientific knowledge is doubling between every five years and eight years. With that much new knowledge we are going to keep seeing amazing new discoveries and applications in fields of science from physics to genetics and our communication and medicine a century now will look nothing like today.
Here are three new things I found intriguing:
Entangled Photons. Telecom giant NTT has been doing research on quantum communications and they have been able to create what they are calling entangled photons. This means two photons at different places that act in total synch with each other. In a recent experiment they were able to entangle pairs of photons that were 300 kilometers apart.
This is really interesting from a communications perspective, because with entangled photons, whatever is done to change one photon happens simultaneously with the other. This leads to the possibility that locations far apart could transmit information without actually sending the information from one place to the other. Instead we would just manipulate the tangled protons at one end and those changes could be read and interpreted as data at the other end.
This research is in the very early stages, but the good news is that they got it to work. It would take a lot more space than this blog to explain why they think this works and if you want your head to hurt go read a book on quantum mechanics. It’s amazing stuff.
And if that is not interesting enough, scientists in Israel recently were able to entangle photons that were separated by both space and time. That is starting to sound like Star Trek to me and opens up the possibility of communicating into another time.
Twisted Magnetic Fields. Scientists have known for a few years that they could increase the surface area of storage media by using twisted magnetic fields, known as skyrmions. Scientists at the University of Hamburg were able recently to be able to write and then erase data on skyrmions. This technology could increase computer storage efficiency by a factor of about 20 times.
The writing and erasing would be done using scanning tunneling microscopes. Like with any new technology there are a lot of bugs to work out. But over time we will continue to see smaller and denser data storage.
Passing the Limits of Silicon. Speaking of smaller, researchers at Applied Materials, the semiconductor and chip maker, have been looking at what comes next after we pass the limits of silicon. Current estimates are that the smallest ‘transistor’ we can make with silicon is at about 14 nanometers. However, the Applied Materials scientists have been looking at other technologies that could lower that to as small as 3 nanometers. This would reduce the size of chips by about a factor of 25 past what can be done with silicon.
The reasons that the semiconductor industry uses silicon is that it’s cheap and all of the research and tools used in the industry are based upon silicon. But if we want smaller and faster chips we are nearing the time when we are going to have to step away from silicon and start over.
Applied Materials thinks that the next possible materials to use are either silicon-germanium (SiGe) or even pure germanium. Those materials can probably reduce the effective size of a transistor down to the 7 nanometer range.
To go beyond 7 nanometers is going to require a change in topology of the chip surface. Above I mentioned using twisted magnetic fields, but this is more in the line of a physical change, and Applied Materials is betting on shaping the material in what they are calling fins. This will increase the surface area while still preventing quantum tunneling and data gate leakage.
What I love about these kinds of breakthroughs is that scientists keep pushing and probing our knowledge of the universe, with the result that we get smaller, faster computing devices that are going to transform our world.