Energy Efficient Mechanical Computers

Scientists including Professor Robert Blick of the University of Wisconsin-Madison have published a paper about a new type of computing architecture based on nano sized mechanical elements. These computers would be built out of robust materials such as piezoelectric crystals which have the capability of changing their shape when subjected to an electrical current. Although this type of computing cannot compete with the high speeds of silicon based computers, it still has many advantages that are important for a wide range of applications. The mechanical computers would not suffer from the thermal limit that CMOS chips are starting to reach. As silicon chips pack an increasing amount of transistors into a small area the heating of the chips is becoming a limitation, however the mechanical devices operate at much cooler temperatures and therefore would not reach this limitation as quickly. For some applications, the fact that the mechanical components do not suffer from electromagnetic interference is a huge benefit. For example, in the military enemies are capable of disabling computer systems with electromagnetic pulses, this would not be possible with mechanical computers. What I found most exciting about this type of architecture is the fact that the mechanical computers consume less power. This will be a huge advantage in battery powered applications, and I expect that we will be hearing a lot more about this technology as it develops. I think it’s very important to stay up-to-date with it, because in a few years we might be programming something that resembles more an engine than a computer processor.

Nano-Mechanics

Mechanical Nano Chip

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