Have you ever thought of computers being so fast that any program could be run in a split second and artificial intelligence (like in the Iron Man movie series) were possible? Right now it may just seem like a twinkle in the eye of an optimistic visionary, but it may just be more possible than one might think. With the isolation of graphene in 2004 at the University of Manchester, the dream of faster and smaller built computers may soon possible. But how will this new isolate of carbon drastically change computer processors and how much different is it compared to the past and present computer processors?
The first obvious difference in computer processors from at least ten years ago is the size. A normally priced common processor in the year 2004 may have taken a space up of about a 2 inch by 2 inch square. That’s excluding the size of the cooling systems, which were also behemoths and taking up almost the entire upper portion of the mother board. Also these older processors contained only the processor. The front side bus was not integrated and many of them had only one core working at a whopping 2 GHz for a high end processor. Without integration, processors worked slower. For an example, when someone orders a pizza and has it delivered to their house, it would take a much longer time for the customer to receive the pizza than if they were in the actual store itself. Precious speed is lost in the carrying of data between one piece of technology and the other.
The processors of today have come a long way since ten years ago. Today our processors have multiple cores ranging from two to sixteen cores. Cores are like separate processors working together and all integrated into one super processor. So two cores have two processors built in working in tandem. Also, computer processors have been miniaturized to be able to fit in phones and tablets. This is available by new technology like enhanced robotics working in factories as well as various other machines for micro constructions. One big issue with making processor units smaller involves the silicon transistors. A transistor is a component used to switch an electronic signal and is what creates the binary 0’s and 1’s that the computer uses to communicate. “Shrinking transistors delivered corresponding clock speed increases and more transistors in the same chip area. Architects used the transistor bounty to add memory, prefetching, branch prediction, multiple instruction issue, and deeper pipelines. The result was exponential single-treaded performance improvements.” - Esmaeilzadeh.
Basically, this states that to get more speed is to decrease the transistor size and to increase the quantity of the transistors in the core. But where is the fan and how do these micro processors stay cool? Well the new processors are positioned on the mother board of the phone or tablet so that they are closer to the case of the device. Then the case is built with a material that breaths well and conducts temperature so that the movement of you taking your device out of your pocket will actually assist in cooling it down. At the same time though, the new processors don’t put out very much heat unless they are being really worked. One might ask why companies don’t build desktop computers with micro processors. The answer to that is that those micro processors can only work so fast and processes a smaller amount of data than the normal sized ones. Although these micro processors run faster than the top of the line super computers ten years ago, it is still better to run a full sized one in your home computer.
When it was applied to computer processors, it clocked at almost 420 GHz! That’s more than 10 times the fastest speed clocked today!
The processors of tomorrow will be something spectacular. Scientists have been hard at work, constantly attempting to change and increase the speed of the future computers. These ideas range from using biological computers with limitless speed and power, to using new elements to work a processor faster. One new material is a compound that scientist have just recently found an isotope for. It’s called graphene. It is a single atom thick material derived from carbon that is super conductive. When it was applied to computer processors, it clocked at almost 420 GHz! That’s more than 10 times the fastest speed clocked today! Just think of the future of computers if they were all running this fast. No more waiting for your computer to start a hefty program or even to start up.
All this is made possible because of switching the transistor material. The current transistor material is made from silicon and is 32-nanometers big . It is getting more and more difficult to decrease the size of standard silicon transistors. How does graphene make a difference in transistor size and core speed? A quote from Miran Pavic’s article, Graphene Defects Could Lead to Smaller Electronics, states that “In the last few years, graphene, a form of carbon derived from graphite oxide, has emerged as a promising alternative to silicon. It’s one atom thick and has phenomenal electron mobility – roughly 100 times greater than silicon.” The article goes on to explain how graphene made transistors were built by scientists two years ago and where three times smaller than the smallest built ones today. In 2008, two University of Manchester scientists created a 1-nanometer graphene transistor, only one atom thick and 10 atoms across. This has been the smallest transistor ever built and is claimed to be the absolute physical limit of Moore’s Law which states that the number of transistors in a processor is affordably doubled every two years. Basically, as the number of transistors increases in a chip, the smaller the transistors have to be.
Within five years, it could begin powering faster and better transistors, computer chips, and LCD screens, according to researchers who are smitten with this new supermaterial.
The next big question is why is this not applied to modern electronics yet? This is because of any new inventions initial issue; finding cheap effective ways to mass produce it. Graphene is not quite as simple to produce compared to making an iPhone or any modern computer technology because just about all of the modern computer technology that is produced today is still based on technology created a decade ago and is miniaturized. “The Manchester team that created the 1-nanometer graphene transistor first produced graphene in 2004 by repeatedly peeling away graphite strips with adhesive tape to isolate a single atomic plane.” - Carmody. To attempt to upscale this method would cause the production of graphene to be too expensive to use on a wide spectrum of electronics and it would still cost a fortune to buy those select few products. Nevertheless, Elizabeth Svoboda from Discover Magazine writes that “Within five years, it could begin powering faster and better transistors, computer chips, and LCD screens, according to researchers who are smitten with this new supermaterial.”
Much of the research that is being conducted today on graphene has been concentrated on finding effective methods of isolation. No one is really sure of its full capabilities and how long it will take to discover an effective process of isolation but there is no doubt that it will have a huge effect on the world in more ways that can be imagined.