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Supercomputing Science

New State of Matter Could Extend Moore's Law 329

rennerik writes "Scientists at McGill University in Montreal say they've discovered a new state of matter that could help extend Moore's Law and allow for the fabrication of more tightly packed transistors, or a new kind of transistor altogether. The researchers call the new state of matter 'a quasi-three-dimensional electron crystal.' It was discovered using a device cooled to a temperature about 100 times colder than intergalactic space, following the application of the most powerful continuous magnetic field on Earth."
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New State of Matter Could Extend Moore's Law

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  • Oh no you didn't (Score:5, Informative)

    by yttrstein ( 891553 ) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @07:01PM (#25475935) Homepage
    Extend it? I trust you mean CONFIRM IT YET AGAIN!

    Thought so.
  • Re:Oh no you didn't (Score:5, Informative)

    by geekoid ( 135745 ) <dadinportland&yahoo,com> on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @07:15PM (#25476103) Homepage Journal

    Neither, Moore's law doesn't apply to this..but that would of course require an understanding of Moore's law. The cost of putting more transistors has started going up, thus ending Moore's law.
    Unless a fab breakthrough happens. A big one.

    Could some other material come up to allow faster processors? you bet, but that wouldn't be Moore's law now, would it?

  • by khallow ( 566160 ) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @07:15PM (#25476105)
    The cosmic microwave background is the electromagnetic energy radiated by the distant reaches of the universe. It corresponds to energy radiated by a roughly 2.7 degrees Kelvin blackbody. That is the temperature of space since under normal conditions nothing can get colder than that temperature.
  • Longer Article (Score:5, Informative)

    by againjj ( 1132651 ) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @07:18PM (#25476145)
  • by brunes69 ( 86786 ) <slashdot.keirstead@org> on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @07:28PM (#25476261) Homepage
    From comments in TFA:

    The researcher, Dr. Guillaume Gervais, is director of McGill University's Ultra-Low Temperature Condensed Matter Experiment Lab. There's nothing in the journal letter about "a new state of matter". The McGill Newsroom article quotes him as saying to the interviewer, "It's actually not quite 3-D, it's an in-between state, a totally new phenomenon" as compared with the 2-D electron crystals that transistors and IC chips are made of. The interviewer, or an editor, thought "Physics -- state -- new state of matter". Engadget's Melanson picked up the error and passed it on uncritically.
  • by againjj ( 1132651 ) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @07:33PM (#25476323) []
    Intersteller space has a density of a million atoms per cubic meter. Intergalactic space has densities closer to one atom per cubic meter. Perfect vacuum is theoretically impossible due to quantum mechanics (I can not explain why, but that makes sense).
  • by Mr. Mikey ( 17567 ) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @07:40PM (#25476403)

    Mr. Peabody, and his boy Sherman, used the Wayback Machine.

    The 3DBB was used by Phineas J. Whoopee, when he was educating Tennessee Tuxedo and his walrus pal, Chumley.

    Look at my ID. I am old... old as dirt! :)

    I used to watch these, as well as "The World of Commander McBragg", and the ever-popular Underdog. "The secret compartment of my ring I fill with an Underdog super-vitamin energy pill." The people involved in the supposed live-action remake of Underdog should all be lowered into wood chippers feet first... and slowly.

  • by againjj ( 1132651 ) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @07:43PM (#25476427)

    TFA doesn't state any specific temperature, but I find the analogy to how "cold" space is rather troubling. Space is really "warm", as it contains energy left from the Big Bang (although no one with a common sense would describe it that way in daily talk), and saying that something is so many times colder than space really just doesn't make sense. You can always compare sizes, but as heat is a positive size, because you can't have negative energy, you can just say "this is a hundred times hotter than that" or "my freezer is two times as cold as my refrigerator compared to my living room". The one who thought of this analogy could be talking about degrees on Celsius or Fahrenheit, but then those numbers must be way below absolute zero, or 0 Kelvin, as space is just 2.7 Kelvin, or -270.7 C ( [] ) and taking for granted he is comparing the temperature of space to 0 ÂC, that means that those crystals are actually -27070 C. And _that_ would be some real frontpage material...

    You seem confused. He speaks of "a temperature about 100 times colder than intergalactic space". Intergalactic space has a temperature of about 3K. It does not make sense to talk of degrees C, since C is not an absolute scale. 100 times colder than 3K is 0.03K.

  • Re:Hell Yeah! (Score:5, Informative)

    by Valacosa ( 863657 ) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @07:48PM (#25476479)
    If you did have it in your office, there's not much danger of it blowing up, but the vacuum pumps would be pretty loud.

    Intergalactic space is about 2 or 3 Kelvin. Getting down to 100 times colder than that - 20 or 30 millikelvin - requires a Helium 3 dilution fridge. Helium 3 is a rare (and expensive) helium isotope. Physics labs can afford this sort of equipment, but we're not going to be using the setup for gaming anytime soon.

    Not to mention, the vacuum pumps, the cold trap and the helium storage system would probably take up most of the space in your cubicle anyway.
  • Radiant temperature. (Score:4, Informative)

    by Ungrounded Lightning ( 62228 ) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @07:53PM (#25476535) Journal

    You don't need matter to have a temperature. Even in a "perfect" vacuum (i.e. nothing but quantum fluctuation transient particle-antiparticle pairs) there is still radiant energy in the form of photons - and their wavelength distribution corresponds to a temperature.

    It's the temperature at which a black-body test object, bathed continuously in photons of that frequency distribution, would neither warm up nor cool down further.

    The radiant temperature of the sky far from the influence of nearby galaxies is known as the "cosmic background temperature". It's about 4 degrees absolute - corresponding to the light from the big bang red-shifted down a LOT by cosmic expansion.

  • by againjj ( 1132651 ) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @07:54PM (#25476557)

    According to wikipedia, intergalactic space is 2.71 Kelvin. I would assume that they mean "100th the temperature of intergalactic space", not "100 times colder than intergalactic space", as the latter is nonsensical and implies that it exists at 100 times colder than intergalactic space is colder than room temperature, meaning -28834 Kelvin (293 - 100 * (293 - 2.73) where we assume that room temperature is 20 degrees centigrade). This is nonsense.

    I don't see a problem with "100 times colder than intergalactic space". Temperature is an absolute scale, like size. It's like saying that item X is "100 times smaller than a coin". You don't then compare the size of the coin (say, 0.01m) to the room (say 3m) and then complain that item X is not of size -296 (3 - 100 * (3 - 0.01)).

  • Re:100 times colder? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Yarhj ( 1305397 ) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @07:57PM (#25476577)
    The average temperature out in space is around 3K. Now, three measly degrees may not seem like a lot, but there's a world of difference between 3K and 0K. I'm sure we would all agree that a temperature of 300K is one-hundred times greater than 3K -- likewise, 0.003K is one hundred times smaller than 3K. There are many exotic physical effects which manifest in the millikelvin regime, but I find it unlikely that you'll be playing Team Fortress 10 on your three-dimensional electron crystal computer. More likely, the insights gleaned from this research will enable a better understanding of silicon and other semiconductors, *possibly* opening the door to further cMOS scaling. Most likely, this research will enable the authors to write some more grants to play with big magnets down in Florida.
  • by Ungrounded Lightning ( 62228 ) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @08:05PM (#25476653) Journal

    It's about 4 degrees absolute... More accurately: about 2.725 +- .002 degrees Kelvin. Also know as the "cosmic microwave background radiation".

  • by againjj ( 1132651 ) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @08:05PM (#25476655)

    but it still works quite well, since 1C == 1K

    and i really cringed when i read the 100 times colder crap. Seriously, if it's at 0.03 K why not just say that?

    It does not work well. 100x colder than 1 C is not 0.01 C, it is -270.27 C. And the reason people don't say 0.03 K is because the average person does not know what K is, but they know space is very cold.

  • Re:Hell Yeah! (Score:2, Informative)

    by wdsci ( 1204512 ) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @08:46PM (#25476981) Homepage

    "temperature about 100 times colder than intergalactic space"

    How can you have something that is 100 times colder than space. I think that space runs at about -270 C, so to be 100 times colder it would have to be -2700 C. I thought absolute zero was -273.15 C at which point all movement is stopped, so how do you get a temperature below that?

    Read the discussion above...the 100x colder is measured in Kelvin, i.e. the "offset" above absolute zero. The temperature of space is about 3K (which is -270 Celsius), so 100x colder is about 3/100 Kelvin.

  • by AstrumPreliator ( 708436 ) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @10:31PM (#25477713)
    So when someone says "X is 100 times larger than Y" you instinctively think "X=100*Y", yet when someone says "X is 100 times smaller than Y" you instinctively think "X=Z-100*(Z-Y)" for some arbitrary Z of same unit as Y. Forgive me for not following your erm... logic.

    Let's say I have a temperature which is 100 times larger than 27.1 mK, this would be 2.71 K. Indeed 27.1 mK is smaller than 2.71 K and 2.71 K is larger than 27.1 mK. So saying 100 times smaller than 2.71 K should indicate I mean 27.1 mK. In no way is this nonsensical and I'm pretty sure everyone here understands that "X is N times smaller than Y" means multiply Y by the reciprocal of N, similarly "X is N times larger than Y" means multiply Y by N.

    Granted this isn't something you'd see in technical writing, but I'm pretty sure Information Week isn't a technical journal, so why be a pedant about it?
  • by Mr Z ( 6791 ) on Wednesday October 22, 2008 @11:39PM (#25478125) Homepage Journal

    There are also particles (or rather, particle / anti-particle pairs []) popping into and out of existence all the time. In fact, this is often invoked as the source of Hawking radiation [].


  • by ( 463190 ) * on Thursday October 23, 2008 @12:20AM (#25478337) Homepage

    Was this moderated Insightful out of irony (I do that all the time when I have the points) or did I miss the joke?

    Please do not mod this ironically, because I'm already confused. Thanks.

  • Re:It came from... (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 23, 2008 @06:14AM (#25479839)

    "Insightful"? What the...? Either you don't know cooling is a HUGE problem in outer space, either the mods didn't get the joke.

    Hint: here on earth, we cool stuff by dumping the extra heat onto air molecules, and keeping the air fresh (e.g. with a fan) so that there's a continuous supply of air to dump heat on. In outer space, there is pretty much nothing to dump the extra heat on. Know how thermos bottles work? That's right, with vacuum. Outer space is the best insulation there is ;-)

  • Re:No, it won't (Score:4, Informative)

    by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Thursday October 23, 2008 @06:43AM (#25479949) Journal
    No, Moore's law states that the number of transistors you can put on an integrated circuit for a fixed cost doubles every 18 months. This has nothing to do with the speed at which the transistors run or the material they are made from.
  • Re:It came from... (Score:3, Informative)

    by durnurd ( 967847 ) on Thursday October 23, 2008 @09:34AM (#25481035) Homepage
    Just to make sure everybody knows: The necessary magnetic field and temperature applications are required only during the creation of the crystals.
  • by Explodicle ( 818405 ) on Thursday October 23, 2008 @11:07AM (#25482273) Homepage

    Major breakthrough, like electro-mechanical switches and transistors, are unpredictable.

    Believing, as Kurzweil does, that in the future there will be breakthrough which will make Moore's law go on forever just because it is what happened in the previous century is pseudo-science.

    You are misrepresenting Kurzweil; he claims Moore's law will go on until until 2045 (not forever) based on the events of the last 4 billion years (not just the previous century). It's also worth noting that there are many sciences based on unpredictable events, such as evolutionary biology and seismology.

  • Re:Longer Article (Score:3, Informative)

    by WhiteDragon ( 4556 ) on Thursday October 23, 2008 @12:48PM (#25483707) Homepage Journal

    Besides AFAIK the most powerful electromagnets on earth are those used in the LHC.

    not even close. The LHC magnets are (according to a quick google search) about 8.3 - 10 T. The magnet lab has a 100T magnet that they routinely run at 85T so it's about 10x more powerful than the LHC magnets.

  • by Urkki ( 668283 ) on Thursday October 23, 2008 @04:53PM (#25488141)

    Does space even have a temperature? Vacuum insulates rather well and the biggest problem of many space-born devices (think ISS) is getting rid of excess heat. The famous Star Trek line of "It's very cold in space" doesn't really match the reality.

    There's the redshifted afterglow of the original Big Bang "fireball", also known as the cosmic microwave background radiation []. It's equal to heat radiation of an object at about 3K. If you make something colder than that and throw it into intergalactic space, it'll heat up to that temperature. If something is warmer than that, and there's no heating, then it'll cool down to that temperature. So I'd say space *is* cold.

    Closest example of a place that always experiences almost the true temperature of space are the bottoms of the polar craters of the Moon. They are eternally in shade, no sunshine, no earthshine, only distant starts and whatever little heat is conducted through lunar crust.

Every little picofarad has a nanohenry all its own. -- Don Vonada