NANOCOMPUTERS: THE COMPUTERS OF TOMORROW:
- TRENDS IN COMPUTATION
- PROCESSING POWER
TRENDS IN COMPUTATION
The March 1949 issue of Popular Mechanics described the latest and greatest number cruncher: "Where a calculator like the Eniac is equipped with 18,000 vacuum tubes and weighs 30 tons, computers in the future may have only 1,000 tubes and perhaps only weigh one and a half tons." Imagine a calculator that almost fits in a small room!
"Nanotechnology will let us build computers that are incredibly powerful. We'll have more power in the volume of a sugar cube than exists in the entire world today." - Ralph Merkle. A child's toy in the future will put to shame the combined might of all the computers on earth right now.Ray Kurzweil has shown that our technology is now doubling its capabilities every year. This exponential growth in the form of 1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, 128, 256, 512, 1024, 2048, 4096, 8192, 16384, 32768, 65536, 131072, 262144, 524288, 1048576, etc. clearly shows that though the pace begins slowly, there is massive change packed into the last few years of any sample period of time. In other words, it sneaks up on you. Computer processing power will increase 1000+ fold during the next decade, one million fold over the next two decades, and a billion fold in three decades. Considering the current power of our computers, a billion-fold increase in computational power is almost unimaginable. This will lead to presently unimaginable applications for this abundance of inexpensive computer power. As processing power grows, the mass and volume of physical material required will also shrink significantly. These trends have steadily progressed at a slowly increasing, exponential pace since before the first electronic computer, and will continue until we run hard up against the atom (and ultimately the Singularity.)
Smaller than both of its predecessors, the minicomputer and microcomputer, the term "nanocomputer" refers simply to a computer constructed of nanometer-scale components. An entire nanocomputer itself may be microscopic. The only technology that is required to build nanocomputers, once again, is the molecular assembler.
Nanocomputers are expected to become the logical successors to today's microcomputers/microprocessors. In a continuation of long-standing Moore's Law, the nanoprocessor would far extend the capabilities of current day computer processors, enabling a vast range of new applications. Nanocomputers will be far smaller, faster and more capable than today's microcomputers.
There are no commercially available nanocomputers in existence at this time. Nanocomputers may be constructed using electronic, mechanical, biochemical or quantum technology. It is unlikely they will be made out of semiconductor transistors (the technology behind current-day [circa 2010] computers) as they do not function well much below approximately 50 nm. Circuit elements at this scale do not even approach the fundamental limits that we expect to reach through nanotechnology. Nevertheless, current chips produced by nanolithography could be considered "nanotechnology," simply due to their having transistors below 100 nm in scale. The process of nanolithography, however, will never be capable of producing true nanocomputers envisioned here, built with almost ultimate precision.
Current-day computer chips are still very inefficient, two-dimensional, bulky and crude. Nanotechnology will enable the creation of nanocomputers that pack in as many transistors (or their analog) per unit volume as the limits of the atomic structure of matter permit. They will be far more efficient, producing much less waste heat and therefore allow for "stacking" of transistor elements to be into the third dimension. Nanocomputers will be built that utilize every atom they are composed of as a computational element.
PROCESSING POWERThe smaller a computer processor is, the faster it can operate; nanocomputers will enable us to speed up computer processing by an enormous factor. The fastest nanocomputers will be electronic, though the smallest may not. The essence of computing is simply a collection of switches capable of turning one another on or off. For this reason, it is possible to build a purely mechanical computer. This is not done presently because it would be bulky, slow, unreliable and extremely expensive at our scale. With components a few nanometers wide, however, a mechanical nanocomputer could be much less than a cubic micron in size - millions of times more compact than today's microelectronic circuits. Although mechanical signals propagate much more slowly than electronic signals, they will not need to travel as far at the nanoscale, and will therefore face less overall delay.
We always use the latest generation of technology to create the next generation of technology, which causes a compounding effect on the resultant power and capabilities of that technology.HTML Comment Box is loading comments...