Quantum Mirage
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27-11-2010, 12:27 PM

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Quantum Mirage

Today, an MP3 player that is smaller than a book of matchbox can hold four gigabytes of information – enough space to store about 750 to 1000 songs. When it comes to the capabilities, power, speed and energy efficiency that are capable of being packed into a cell phone or a laptop, a phenomenon called quantum mirage portends that the surface may have only been scratched so far. Essentially quantum mirage is a phenomenon that suggests that data can be transferred without conventional wires. One of the biggest obstacles to the continued shrinkage of electronic elements within integrated circuits happens to be the interconnection between the various electronic elements. As the size of these elements decrease, so must the size of the wires that carry electrons, and thereby information, from one element to another. But beyond a certain point, a wire’s ability to conduct electrons becomes significantly hampered, preventing the message from getting through. Therefore, if nanotechnology and atomic-scale computers are to become a reality, an alternative means to send information between circuit elements must be developed and quantum mirage gives a chance to do precisely that. To understand how this phenomenon relates to nano-circuit communication requires the brush-up of certain known as well as relatively new topics, which will be discussed in the second chapter.

Moore's law describes a long-term trend in the history of computing hardware. The number of transistors that can be placed inexpensively on an integrated circuit has doubled approximately every two years. The trend has continued for more than half a century and is not expected to stop until 2015 or later. The capabilities of many digital electronic devices are strongly linked to Moore's law: processing speed, memory capacity, sensors and even the number and size of pixels in digital cameras. All of these are improving at (roughly) exponential rates as well. This has dramatically increased the usefulness of digital electronics in nearly every segment of the world economy. Moore's law precisely describes a driving force of technological and social change in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Moore's original statement that transistor counts had doubled every year can be found in his publication "Cramming more components onto integrated circuits", Electronics Magazine 19 April 1965: The complexity for minimum component costs has increased at a rate of roughly a factor of two per year... Certainly over the short term this rate can be expected to continue, if not to increase. Over the longer term, the rate of increase is a bit more uncertain, although there is no reason to believe it will not remain nearly constant for at least 10 years. That means by 1975, the number of components per integrated circuit for minimum cost will be 65,000. I believe that such a large circuit can be built on a single wafer. Moore slightly altered the formulation of the law over time, in retrospect bolstering the perceived accuracy of his law. Most notably, in 1975, Moore altered his project and implimentationion to a doubling every two years. A plot of CPU transistor counts against dates of introduction can be seen in the figure next page. Note the logarithmic scale; the fitted line corresponds to exponential growth, with transistor count doubling every two years.

On 13 April 2005, Gordon Moore stated in an interview that the law cannot be sustained indefinitely: "It can't continue forever. The nature of exponentials is that you push them out and eventually disaster happens." He also noted that transistors would eventually reach the limits of miniaturization at atomic levels: In terms of size [of transistors] you can see that we're approaching the size of atoms which is a fundamental barrier, but it'll be two or three generations before we get that far—but that's as far out as we've ever been able to see. We have another 10 to 20 years before we reach a fundamental limit. By then they'll be able to make bigger chips and have transistor budgets in the billions.
IBM scientists believe they may have found a way to beat the physical limitations imposed on microprocessors as the chips' circuits become too small to support an electrical current. The technique, dubbed the Quantum Mirage Effect (QME), is positively mind-boggling. Essentially, information about an atom at point A appears at point B even though there is no physical connection between the two points. "We call it a mirage because we project and implimentation information about one atom to another spot where there is no atom," said Donald Eigler, head of the research project and implimentation at IBM's Almaden Research Centre in San Jose, California. "This is a fundamentally new way of guiding information through a solid." QME is analogous the way sound and light can be guided by curved surfaces, such as parabolic reflectors, from one point to another, except this time the information is transmitted by electrons, which, according to quantum theory, can behave either as particles (which they do in a traditional electrical circuit, say) or as waves. In the forthcoming chapters this new and astounding phenomenon called quantum mirage will be discussed in detail, starting with a review of some basic concepts and going through the history of early research to provide a clear understanding of the concept in its current magnitude. Future prospects will also be discussed towards the end.

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