GCN Tech Blog

By GCN Staff

Blog archive

Plasmonics: A new hope for the post-silicon era

For some time now, people have been wondering what will be the successor to silicon-based processor technology. Once Moore's Law inevitably hits the wall — as the limits of how many transistors can be packed onto a silicon wafer is reached — what new technologies will continue to march forward to ever-more powerful computers?

One possible answer comes in the form of an emerging science called plasmonics, reports Science News.

Plasmonics, studied by the National Institute of Standards and Technology and others, is a newly understood technique of compressing light into conduits just a few nanometers wide. Tiny plasmonic lasers could do the work that transistors do today. Such "plasers" are smaller than silicon-based transistors, much more computing power can be packed into a smaller surface.

Plasmonics exploits a strange nano-level phenomenon known as the surface plasmon wave, caused when light hits a very small scrap of metal. The "light can set off a wave in the free electrons hanging out on the metal’s surface. This wave carries the light along like a surfer riding on an electron sea," the publication reports.

All the usual disclaimers apply when talking about far-term technology: The devil remains buried in the details. Converting light into plasma waves hasn't been sussed out yet, and how to encode data on a wave remains a challenge as well. Also, plasma waves don't travel very far before dying out.

Like quantum computing — that other great promise for post-silicon processing — plasmonic computers remain decades away. Still worth watching, though.

Posted by Joab Jackson on Nov 02, 2009 at 9:39 AM


Featured

  • Defense
    Ryan D. McCarthy being sworn in as Army Secretary Oct. 10, 2019. (Photo credit: Sgt. Dana Clarke/U.S. Army)

    Army wants to spend nearly $1B on cloud, data by 2025

    Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy said lack of funding or a potential delay in the JEDI cloud bid "strikes to the heart of our concern."

  • Congress
    Rep. Jim Langevin (D-R.I.) at the Hack the Capitol conference Sept. 20, 2018

    Jim Langevin's view from the Hill

    As chairman of of the Intelligence and Emerging Threats and Capabilities subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committe and a member of the House Homeland Security Committee, Rhode Island Democrat Jim Langevin is one of the most influential voices on cybersecurity in Congress.

Stay Connected

Sign up for our newsletter.

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.