• July 2010
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Advance Made Toward Communication, Computing at “Terahertz” Speeds.

Oregon State University News (07/19/10) Stauth, David

Scientists at Oregon State University (OSU), the University of Iowa, and Philipps University in Germany have developed a method for using a gallium arsenide nanodevice as a signal processor at terahertz speeds, which they say is a key advance for optical communication and computing. The method includes a way for nanoscale devices based on gallium arsenide to respond to strong terahertz pulses in an extremely short period, controlling the electrical signal in a semiconductor. “Electrons and wires are too slow, they’re a bottleneck,” says OSU professor Yun-shik Lee. “The future is in optical switching, in which wires are replaced by emitters and detectors that can function at terahertz speeds.” The scientists found that the gallium arsenide devices used in their research can achieve that goal. “We were able to manipulate and observe the quantum system, basically create a strong response and the first building block of optical signal processing,” Lee says. The first applications of the technology will likely be in optical communications, but the ultimate application could be quantum computing, Lee says.


Building Skills That Count.

University of Texas at Austin (07/16/10) Fidelman, Laura

The Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) has created a supercomputing curriculum designed to teach advanced computing skills to undergraduate and graduate students at the University of Texas at Austin. TACC scientists and researchers are teaching students how to make use of special-purpose, high-end computer systems to solve computational problems beyond the capabilities of typical desktop computers. The majority of students have backgrounds in chemistry, biology, computer science, geosciences, mathematics, and physics. The program starts by providing students with the basics of programming in the FORTRAN and C++ computer languages, which dominate supercomputing, and leads to classes in which students write complex programs that run efficiently on supercomputers, including TACC’s Ranger supercomputer. Undergraduate students can complete coursework to earn a Certificate of Scientific Computation, while graduate students complete a Portfolio in Scientific Computation.


Predicting Success With NIWA Supercomputer New Zealand.

Dominion Post (07/22/10) Chapman, Katie

New Zealand’s National Institute of Water & Atmospheric Research (NIWA) announced that it has launched the most powerful computer in the southern hemisphere. The new supercomputer can perform 34 trillion calculations a second and can store 5 petabytes on tape. It is 100 times faster and has 500 times more disk space than the current model. NIWA says scientists will use the supercomputer to forecast the impact of severe weather events, such as flooding, storm surge, and inundation; and model climate change, river flow, ocean levels, and wave patterns. In addition, bioengineers at Auckland University will use the supercomputer to create computer models of the human body, which could lead to new approaches to diagnosing and treating patients as well as in developing new medicines. Phase two of the installment will be completed next year, which will double the speed and the disk space of the supercomputer.


Protein From Poplar Trees Can Be Used to Greatly Reduce Size of Memory Elements and Increase the Density of Computer Memory.

Hebrew University of Jerusalem (07/21/10)

Genetically engineered poplar-derived protein complexes have the potential to increase the memory capacity of future computers. Scientists from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem have combined protein molecules obtained from the poplar tree with memory units based on silica nanoparticles. The team genetically engineered the poplar protein to develop a hybrid silicon nanoparticle. Attached to the inner pore of a stable, ring-like protein, the hybrids are arranged in a large array of very close molecular memory units. Professor Danny Porath and graduate student Izhar Medalsy have successfully demonstrated the approach. They say genetically engineered poplar-derived protein complexes could lead to systems that would need much less space for memory and functional logic elements. The researchers say the approach to miniaturizing memory elements is cost-effective and could replace standard fabrication techniques.


Neurons to Power Future Computers.

BBC News (07/23/10)

University of Plymouth computer scientists led by Thomas Wennekers are developing novel computers that mimic the way neurons are built and how they communicate. Neural-based computers could lead to improvements in visual and audio processing. “We want to learn from biology to build future computers,” Wennekers says. “The brain is much more complex than the neural networks that have been implemented so far.” The researchers are collecting data about neurons and how they are connected in one part of the brain. The project is focusing on the laminar microcircuitry of the neocortex, which is involved in higher brain functions such as seeing and hearing. Meanwhile, Manchester University professor Steve Furber is using the neural blueprint to produce new hardware. Furber’s project, called Spinnaker, is developing a computer optimized to run like biology does. Spinnaker aims to develop innovative computer processing systems and insights into the way that several computational elements can be connected. “The primary objective is just to understand what’s happening in the biology,” Furber says. “Our understanding of processing in the brain is extremely thin.”