The February 2023 issue of IEEE Spectrum is here!

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Multidisciplinary Nature of Nanotechnology Confirmed

So now that we know nanotechnology is multidisciplinary in nature, what do we do about it

1 min read

Is it physics? Is it biology? Is it chemistry? Or is it all of these and many more? So has gone the line of questioning for those who sought to get a handle on nanotechnology, i.e. how to define it and how to train and educate a new generation of scientists around it.

As though this multidisciplinary characteristic needed some kind of confirmation, some researchers at Georgia Tech are reporting in this month’s edition of Nature Nanotechnology that indeed nanotechnology involves a number of different scientific fields. 

I suppose if there is something slightly surprising from their analysis of research papers it’s that other disciplines such as electrical engineering or medicine are only marginally less multidisciplinary.

While a recognition of nanotechnology’s drawing upon different scientific disciplines is no doubt important to figuring out how one should invest in and support its development, it’s not altogether clear to me how this research clarifies something that was already fairly well accepted and understood. But who knows, maybe some politico needs to see some pretty pictures to convince them of the obvious.

Now I think it might be time to move on to some research that helps make it easier for physicists, chemists and biologists to talk to one another. Or figure out how we pull out of the specialization spiral science has been in for the last half century and get back to more broadly trained scientists.

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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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