David Kirkpatrick

May 20, 2010

The latest supercomputer concept — atomtronic computers

This is a really wild idea, and truly once we are able to manipulate individual atoms in this way supercomputing will only be one of the amazing things that’ll be happening.

From the link:

“The emerging field of atomtronics aims to construct analogies of electronic components, systems and devices using ultracold atoms,” say Ron Pepino and pals at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in Boulder Colorado.

Today, they outline their vision for atomtronics, show how it works and explain why it could shape the future of information processing.

The idea is to manipulate neutral atoms using lasers in a way that mimics the behaviour of electrons in wires, transistors and logic gates. Over the last decade or two, physicists at NIST and elsewhere have become masters at creating optical lattices in which atoms can be pushed pulled and prodded at will.

But this kind of optical lion taming has limited appeal so Pepino and co have begun a program to put tame atoms to work.

The problem is that atoms don’t behave like electrons so building the atomtronic equivalent of something even as straightforward as a simple circuit consisting of a battery and resistor in series, requires some thinking out of the box.

Pepino and co say that transferring atoms from one reservoir to another is a decent enough analogy and that this transfer can take place thorugh an optical lattice in which atoms tunnel at a uniform rate. That’s their simple circuit analogy.

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