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University of Twente Awarded €1 Million Grant for Evolving Computers

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Posted November 26, 2012

Researchers from the CTIT Centre for Telematics and Information Technology and MESA+ Institute for Nanotechnology at the University of Twente have been awarded a European grant worth €2.9 million for research that will eventually lead to a new generation of computers.

More than €1 million is earmarked for research at the University of Twente. Researchers have drawn their inspiration for the project from nature. They are working on new nanostructures, which will be able to make complex computations by means of controlled evolution.

Moore’s Law states that technological advances mean that the number of transistors on a computer chip will double every two years. As a result, transistors have to be made smaller. Current technology allows us to make transistors measuring just 20 nanometres, but we are rapidly reaching the technological and physical limits. Making the transistors even smaller and putting them closer together would lead to detrimental quantum effects. According to Prof. Hajo Broersma from the University of Twente, within another five to ten years we will be unable to fit any additional computing power onto a square centimetre unless we find a fundamentally new method for developing computer chips. And this is exactly what Broersma and his fellow researchers are planning to do.

Evolution

Researchers from the University of Twente will be joining scientists from the universities of Durham (UK), York (UK), Trondheim (Norway) and Lugano (Switzerland) to search for a fundamentally new method for creating information-processing computer components. They will allow minuscule gold nanoparticles to assemble themselves into complex structures. These structures will be linked to a regular digital computer in order to change their configuration, thereby enabling them to evolve into functional units and carry out relevant computer calculations. The scientists will let controlled evolution take its course, as it does in the natural world, in the hope of achieving optimum results. However, unlike natural evolution, they are using dead materials and this digital computer-controlled evolutionary process takes place at the speed of light rather than over millions of years.

Programme leader Broersma calls this a ‘high risk, high gain’ research project: highly fundamental, but (assuming it leads to concrete applications) with a potentially high impact on society.

Grant

The research has been made financially possible thanks to an FP7 grant from the European Union (as part of the Future and Emerging Technologies programme). The EU has allocated a total of €2.9 million to the project as a whole. More than one million of this amount is earmarked for research at the University of Twente, which is coordinating the project. The University of Twente will use this money to appoint a PhD student and two post-graduate researchers. The research will be carried out in the Programmable Nanosystems, NanoElectronics, Mathematics of Computational Science, Formal Methods and Tools and Computer Architectures for Embedded Systems departments of the CTIT Centre for Telematics and Information Technology and the MESA+ Institute for Nanotechnology.

Source: University of Twente

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