Chemists Create Electric Nanocar

Electron-powered molecular machine has four-wheel drive

3 min read

9 November 2011—Inside our bodies, a remarkable set of molecular machines speeds along our internal processes, ferrying goods where needed, dividing cells, and contracting muscles. The challenge for nanoengineers, says chemist Ben Feringa, "is to design a completely artificial system that can do the same thing as these biological molecules."

In a step toward that goal, Feringa and colleagues at the University of Groningen, in the Netherlands, have constructed a molecule that looks and seems to move like a four-wheeled car. Feringa’s team was responsible for the first light-driven molecular motor, but their latest creation is propelled forward by energetic electrons shot from a scanning tunneling microscope (STM).

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Two Startups Are Bringing Fiber to the Processor

Avicena’s blue microLEDs are the dark horse in a race with Ayar Labs’ laser-based system

5 min read
Diffuse blue light shines from a patterned surface through a ring. A blue cable leads away from it.

Avicena’s microLED chiplets could one day link all the CPUs in a computer cluster together.

Avicena

If a CPU in Seoul sends a byte of data to a processor in Prague, the information covers most of the distance as light, zipping along with no resistance. But put both those processors on the same motherboard, and they’ll need to communicate over energy-sapping copper, which slow the communication speeds possible within computers. Two Silicon Valley startups, Avicena and Ayar Labs, are doing something about that longstanding limit. If they succeed in their attempts to finally bring optical fiber all the way to the processor, it might not just accelerate computing—it might also remake it.

Both companies are developing fiber-connected chiplets, small chips meant to share a high-bandwidth connection with CPUs and other data-hungry silicon in a shared package. They are each ramping up production in 2023, though it may be a couple of years before we see a computer on the market with either product.

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