For First Time Nanowires Create Programmable Logic

Applications may exist for implantable medical sensors but what this research means for circuit design is really encouraging

1 min read
For First Time Nanowires Create Programmable Logic

The typical refrain you hear when some introduces a new transistor design or material goes something like: “Let me know when you make a simple logic circuit.”

Okay, researchers at Harvard University, led by Charles Lieber, would like to let you know that they have used nanowires to create for the first time programmable logic “tiles”. The researchers dubbed the term “tiles” with the idea that each tile, which would have up to eight distinct logic gates, could be connected to other tiles to execute more complex logic functions.

An article here on the pages of Spectrum online has more on this breakthrough and the background research developments that led to it.

Just a personal note to this thorough article and the research, I have often gone back to an article penned by Professor Lieber back in 2007 for Scientific American entitled The Incredible Shrinking Circuit to inform my understanding of nanowire research, so I am always intrigued to see what he and his team are doing in this field.

While Lieber concedes that these nanowire-based logic tiles will not replace CMOS, since the transistors operate at comparatively slow speeds of only 10 to 100 megahertz, their high density and low power consumption could make them attractive for a “controller for some microelectromechanical device.”

Application possibilities are intriguing, but what is most appealing about this breakthrough to me is that it seems to be a major step in the process of leading us further down the road of the incredible shrinking circuit.

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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.


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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