This week, researchers at the Delft University of Technology presented a research on how they achieved one-directional superconductivity. This could allow computers to replace semiconductors with superconductors, which can carry a current indefinitely without energy losses, posing a threat to computer speeds.
According to Associate Professor Mazhar Ali, superconductor-based computers might reach speeds up to a terahertz. While superconducting might not be viable for consumer devices in near future, Ali believes server farms and supercomputers might be able to implement it.
Ali (middle) along with fellow researchers Dr. Yaojia Wang (left) and Dr. Heng Wu (right)
Currents are often driven through superconductors without any resistance, which makes stopping or directing their flow impossible. Ali believes that his company could do it by splitting a quantum material between two semiconductors.
Currently, the research team has only tested the method at extremely low temperatures. So far, any superconductor-based system using this process would be extremely sensitive to heat. Ali''s team wants to see if the technique may be successful at temperatures above 77 Kelvin (about -321 Fahrenheit), at which point computers might be capable of using these superconductors with the help of liquid-nitrogen cooling. The next step will be to make enough superconductors for a chip.
The (im)possibility of imposing superconducting
In the 20th century and beyond, no one could overcome the barrier of making superconducting electrons go in one direction, which is a fundamental asset for computing and other modern electronics (consider for example diodes that go one way as well) scientists at IBM tried out the idea of superconducting computing, but had to stop their efforts: in their papers on the subject, IBM claims that without non-reciprocal superconductivity, a computer operating on superconductors is impossible.