HP Claims Circuit Breakthrough

HP said its researchers have created a new way to make electronic circuits using so-called “coding theory,” which is already applied today in certain math, cryptography and telecommunications applications, including digital cell phones and deep-space probes.

HP said the new design method, based on nanotechnology, could produce future electronic circuits that are both tiny in size and high in quality. “The result could be nearly perfect manufacturing yields with equipment a thousand times less expensive than what might be required using future versions of current technologies,” said a company press release on the breakthrough, detailed in a paper in the June 6 edition of Nanotechnology.

The new design method also involves HP’s patented “crossbar latch” technology, which addresses the size limitations of today’s silicon using an electronic line that retains functionality at a fraction of the size.

New, Nano Circuits

HP researchers said the new technology addresses the inevitable defects that will come with electrical component manufacturing as sizes get down to the scale of the nanometer — a billionth of a meter.

“By using crossbar architecture and adding 50 percent more wires as an ‘insurance policy,’ we believe it will be possible to fabricate nano-electronic circuits with nearly perfect yields even though the probability of broken components will be high.”

HP’s technology amounts to a “more is better” approach, acknowledging that all of the circuits made at such a small scale will not be perfect and addressing the shortfall with a higher number of circuits, more of which are likely to be functional.

Unreliable Computing

Gartner research vice president Martin Reynolds told TechNewsWorld the approach is part of what he describes, in a positive sense, as “unreliable computing.”

“What’s happening is, we’re going to see a decrease in reliability,” Reynolds said. “Things aren’t going to work 100 percent.”

Reynolds said while today’s technologies tend to depend on reliability of electronic components, that reliability is certain to shrink as circuits, transistors and other parts get smaller.

“If at 100 times smaller than regular transistors, you’re trying to build one-to-one [quality], you would never get the right answer,” he added. “It would never work.”

Staying Power of Silicon

Calling HP’s latest research “an interesting area,” Reynolds said the company is on the right track to deal with smaller technology and lower reliability rates by turning many small, unreliable parts into one, large reliable part.

Nevertheless, the analyst added there is still 10 years of life in silicon technology, which also continues to improve and shrink.

“The other technologies have to keep up,” Reynolds said. “There’ll come a point when they can cross over, but it won’t come for another 10 years. We’ll still use silicon because it’s a perfect substrate and we know how to manipulate it. It just won’t be used for circuits.”

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