HP researchers find solution to replace transistors

Palo Alto (CA) - Hewlett-Packard (HP) today announced its researchers have proven that their "crossbar latch" could replace the transistor, the fundamental building block of computers for the last half century. The molecule-based technology could offer new opportunities to accelerate and construct computers in the future.

In a paper published in today's Journal of Applied Physics, three members of HP's Quantum Science Research (QSR) group propose and demonstrate the "crossbar latch," which provides the signal restoration and inversion required for general computing without the need for transistors. HP believes that the he technology could result in computers "thousands of times more powerful than those that exist today".

"We are re-inventing the computer at the molecular scale," said Stan Williams, senior fellow and QSR director at HP. "The crossbar latch provides a key element needed for building a computer using nanometer-sized devices that are relatively inexpensive and easy to build."

The experimentally demonstrated latch consists of a single wire acting as a signal line, crossed by two control lines with an electrically switchable molecular-scale junction where they intersect, HP said.

By applying a sequence of voltage impulses to the control lines and using switches oriented in opposite polarities, the latch can perform the NOT operation, which, along with AND and OR, is one of three basic operations that make up the primary logic of a circuit and are essential for general computing. In addition, it can restore a logic level in a circuit to its ideal voltage value, which allows a designer to chain many simple gates together to perform computations, according to the company.

"Transistors will continue to be used for years to come with conventional silicon circuits," believes Phil Kuekes, senior computer architect at QSR. "But this could someday replace transistors in computers, just as transistors replaced vacuum tubes and vacuum tubes replaced electromagnetic relays before them."