Scientists discover a new "speed limit" for all electronic devices - Science-Astronomy

Scientists discover a new "speed limit" for all electronic devices

It's hard to imagine a world that's reached the ceiling for innovation when it comes to the speed of electronic devices. But that's exactly what a global team of scientists has done.

The researchers, from TU Wien, TU Graz, and the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, calculated the ultimate speed limit for electronic devices, the point at which the laws of quantum mechanics prevent microchips from becoming any faster, according to a study published in Nature Communications.

The fastest devices in the world are known as optoelectronics — systems that use light to control electricity. The new study outlines the limit for optoelectronics by calculating the speed at which the most powerful examples of these devices can operate.

To make their calculations, the team experimented with semiconductor materials and lasers. A quick laser pulse energizes electrons in the material before a second, slightly longer lase pulse produces an electrical current in the material. The researchers observed the current while applying shorter and shorter laser pulses until Heisenberg's uncertainty principle allowed them to go no further — the principle states that the more accurately you measure one variable of a particle, such as its position, the more uncertain other variables, such as momentum will be, and vice versa.

The researchers also applied their findings to complex computer simulations to make better sense of their observations. Using shorter laser pulses meant the researchers could calculate exactly when the electrons gained energy. But, due to Heisenberg's principle, this came at the cost of reduced certainty over the amount of energy gained. That would likely be an insurmountable hurdle for electronic devices, which require exact calculations of electrons to be controlled precisely.

So according to the researchers, the upper limit of optoelectronic systems is one Petahertz, which is equivalent to a million Gigahertz. To go any faster would be to break the laws of quantum physics.

The team does also state that many other technical hurdles would stand in the way of getting anywhere near that speed, so we're not about to see optoelectronic devices that come anywhere near that upper limit.

"Realistic technical upper limits are most likely considerably lower," the scientists say in a press release. "Even though the laws of nature determining the ultimate speed limits of optoelectronics cannot be outsmarted, they can now be analyzed and understood with sophisticated new methods." Knowing the ceiling allows researchers and developers to better understand the constraints they're working with and adjust their work accordingly.


 Nature Communications 

Scientists discover a new "speed limit" for all electronic devices Scientists discover a new "speed limit" for all electronic devices Reviewed by Rauf ahmed on March 31, 2022 Rating: 5

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