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Graphene Ultracapacitor Could Shrink Systems

A more capacitor-like ultracapacitor could replace much bigger components

3 min read

23 September 2010—The ultracapacitor—the battery’s quicker cousin—just got faster and may one day help make portable electronics a lot smaller and lighter, according to a group of researchers. John Miller, president of the electrochemical capacitor company JME, in Shaker Heights, Ohio, and his team reported the new ultracapacitor design this week in Science.

Ultracapacitors don’t store quite as much charge as batteries but can charge and discharge in seconds rather than the minutes batteries take. This combination of speed and energy supply makes them attractive for things like regenerative braking, where the ultracapacitors would have only seconds to recharge as a car comes to a stop. But sometimes a second is still too long: Using nanometer-scale fins of graphene, the researchers built an ultracapacitor that can charge in less than a millisecond. This agility, its designers say, means that the devices could replace the ubiquitous bulky capacitors that smooth out the ripples in power supplies to free up precious space in gadgets and computers.

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The First Million-Transistor Chip: the Engineers’ Story

Intel’s i860 RISC chip was a graphics powerhouse

21 min read
Twenty people crowd into a cubicle, the man in the center seated holding a silicon wafer full of chips

Intel's million-transistor chip development team

In San Francisco on Feb. 27, 1989, Intel Corp., Santa Clara, Calif., startled the world of high technology by presenting the first ever 1-million-transistor microprocessor, which was also the company’s first such chip to use a reduced instruction set.

The number of transistors alone marks a huge leap upward: Intel’s previous microprocessor, the 80386, has only 275,000 of them. But this long-deferred move into the booming market in reduced-instruction-set computing (RISC) was more of a shock, in part because it broke with Intel’s tradition of compatibility with earlier processors—and not least because after three well-guarded years in development the chip came as a complete surprise. Now designated the i860, it entered development in 1986 about the same time as the 80486, the yet-to-be-introduced successor to Intel’s highly regarded 80286 and 80386. The two chips have about the same area and use the same 1-micrometer CMOS technology then under development at the company’s systems production and manufacturing plant in Hillsboro, Ore. But with the i860, then code-named the N10, the company planned a revolution.

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