The Government’s main science funding agency, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPRSC), today awarded the University of Cambridge a grant of Ј4.4m for research which promises to revolutionise the speed of information technology and hopes also to discover new laws of physics.
The grant funds research into some of the tiniest controllable structures in the world: nanostructures. The University’s Department of Physics Cavendish Laboratory wants to develop a new generation of tiny semiconductors – the main component of computer chips – which will be able to communicate information at speeds faster than ever before. The new super-fast machines will be called ‘quantum computers’ which would work on entirely different principles from the computers we know today.
Professor Michael Pepper, who is Principal Investigator on the four-year project and head of the Semiconductor Physics Group at the Cavendish, said: “We are not talking about speeding up reactions by a factor of two or three, but by a factor of billions! Currently computing operations happen in sequence. With the new technology they will happen in parallel.”
Nanostructures are the tiniest particles known to man - one millionth of a millimetre. At this size particles follow the laws of quantum mechanics. The team will manipulate electrons and try to speed them up by changing the way they behave. This involves cooling them to near the lowest temperature possible in the universe: absolute zero (-273C).
The Cavendish Laboratory is one of the world’s leading players in pioneering nanotechnology information, AZoNano reports.
The choice of the city of Helsinki is not incidental as the capital of Finland had hosted US-Soviet negotiations on the limitation of nuclear stockpiles in 1969