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Babbage Nanomachine Promises Low-Energy Computing

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detail of a Babbage differential engine

Credit: University of North Carolina Wilmington

Boston University (BU) researchers have created a nanoscale mechanical logic gate that could form the basis of tiny mechanical computers, descendants of Charles Babbage's mechanical computers. BU's nanoscale gate consists of a strip of silicon sitting between two other chunks of silicon. Applying a specific voltage between one of the chunks and the strip causes the strip to vibrate and enter a hysteretic regime, where it will vibrate with one of two amplitudes. By using a pair of electrical pulses, the team was able to flip the vibration from one amplitude to another. If one of the pulses or neither of them resonates with the strip, it then remains in its existing vibrational state.

Although the gate is not as fast as its traditional equivalent, it loses far less energy per operation, says BU's Raj Mohanty. Trading speed for energy might be beneficial in certain situations.

From New Scientist
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