12.05.2011

How to build computers of the future

Researchers at IBM are building computing devices of the future - but you're less likely to find them focusing on the slimmer, smaller, lighter, sleeker, sexier holiday gift-giving gift ideas. IBM's top computer scientists, physicists and chemists can instead be found improving compute power based on advanced physics discoveries; decreasing the size of transistors while improving performance; and even developing circuit architecture that'll give you better cell phone reception and protect devices against radiation.

And IBM's $6B annual investment in R&D doesn't just mean playtime in the lab. Today, 10 of IBM's research papers were recognized at the IEEE International Electron Devices Meeting. The conference, in its 60th year, is hosted by the world’s largest professional association dedicated to advancing technological innovation and excellence for the benefit of humanity.

Here's a look at what IBMers are contributing to the future of computing:

Racetrack Memory
Photo Caption: IBM Research - Almaden's Stuart Parkin is a pioneer in racetrack memory. Lightning-fast boot times anyone?
  • Combines the benefits of magnetic hard drives and solid-state memory to outsmart Moore's Law (increased power demands, shrinking devices)
  • For the first time, IBM researchers are marrying Racetrack memory with CMOS technology (on which virtually all electronic equipment is built)
  • Improves density, potentially allowing massive amounts of info to be accessed in less than 1 billionth of a second

Graphene
Photo Caption: Earlier this summer, IBM Research unveiled its first wafer-scale graphene integrated circuit smaller than a pinhead
  • The first ever CMOS-compatible graphene device can advance wireless communications and enable new high-frequency devices operable under adverse temperature and radiation conditions
  • Resesarchers have developed a new technique to improve the structure of graphene transistors, proving stability at far higher temperatures than previously achieved

Carbon Nanotubes
Photo Caption: Carbon nanotubes have been used to develop improved solar cell technology, and IBMers have discovered excellent off-state behavior in extremely scaled devices - an energy-saving technique
  • IBM researchers demonstrated the first carbon nanotube transistor rated at less than 10 nanometers, which easily outperforms the best competing silicon-based devices
  • Nanotechnology discoveries like this point to improved solar cell technology

To read the technical details of IBM's three breakthroughs, check out the IBM press release. The Wall Street Journal's Don Clark interviewed IBM Fellow and VP of Innovation Bernie Meyerson in this story.

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