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WHY THIS MATTERS IN BRIEF

Impossible is just something we haven’t done yet, and now we’ve achieved another “impossible” breakthrough …

 

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We all know that traditional computer chips run on electricity, while the emerging photonic chips use light which, in some cases oddly they then convert into sound so that traditional computing components can process the information. Now, scientists at Harvard University have demonstrated a new kind of chip that transmits data purely in the form of sound waves. And yes you heard that right.

 

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Computer chips and circuits send and process data by modulating a particular medium. Most of the time that medium is electrons, the flow of which is modulated by components like transistors to encode data as ones and zeroes – high or low current. More recently, photonic chips have been developed that modulate photons of light and send them down narrow channels called waveguides to transmit data around the chip.

The new acoustic chip works in a similar way to the latter, only with sound waves instead of light waves. The team fashioned a modulator out of a material called lithium niobate, which changes its elasticity in response to an electric field and produces acoustic waves. By carefully adjusting that field, the modulator can control the phase, amplitude and frequency of the acoustic waves, encoding data in them before sending them down waveguides.

 

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The team says that acoustic wave chips have a few potential advantages over those that use electromagnetic waves. They’re easy to confine to the tiny waveguide structures, they don’t interfere with each other, and they interact strongly with other parts of the system they’re used in.

“Acoustic waves are promising as on-chip information carriers for both quantum and classical information processing but the development of acoustic integrated circuits has been hampered by the inability to control acoustic waves in a low-loss, scalable manner,” said Marko Loncar, senior author of the study. “In this work, we showed we can control acoustic waves on an integrated lithium niobate platform, bringing us one step closer to an acoustic integrated circuit.”

 

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With this first active acoustic wave chip functional, the team is working on building more complex acoustic wave circuits, and investigating how to connect them to quantum computer components such as superconducting qubits.

The research was published in the journal Nature Electronics.

Source: Harvard University

About author

Matthew Griffin

Matthew Griffin, described as “The Adviser behind the Advisers” and a “Young Kurzweil,” is the founder and CEO of the World Futures Forum and the 311 Institute, a global Futures and Deep Futures consultancy working between the dates of 2020 to 2070, and is an award winning futurist, and author of “Codex of the Future” series. Regularly featured in the global media, including AP, BBC, Bloomberg, CNBC, Discovery, RT, Viacom, and WIRED, Matthew’s ability to identify, track, and explain the impacts of hundreds of revolutionary emerging technologies on global culture, industry and society, is unparalleled. Recognised for the past six years as one of the world’s foremost futurists, innovation and strategy experts Matthew is an international speaker who helps governments, investors, multi-nationals and regulators around the world envision, build and lead an inclusive, sustainable future. A rare talent Matthew’s recent work includes mentoring Lunar XPrize teams, re-envisioning global education and training with the G20, and helping the world’s largest organisations envision and ideate the future of their products and services, industries, and countries. Matthew's clients include three Prime Ministers and several governments, including the G7, Accenture, Aon, Bain & Co, BCG, Credit Suisse, Dell EMC, Dentons, Deloitte, E&Y, GEMS, Huawei, JPMorgan Chase, KPMG, Lego, McKinsey, PWC, Qualcomm, SAP, Samsung, Sopra Steria, T-Mobile, and many more.

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