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NTU and German Scientists Turn Memory Chips Into Processors to Speed Up Computing Tasks

Nanyang Technological University (Singapore) (01/03/17) Lester Kok

Researchers from Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore and RWTH Aachen University and Forschungszentrum Juelich in Germany have developed a new computing circuit that enables data to be processed in the same place where it is stored. The technology relies on Redox-based resistive switching random-access memory (ReRAM) chips. The researchers demonstrated how ReRAM can be used to process data, instead of just storing it. The researchers say conventional devices and computers have to transfer data from memory storage to the processor unit for computation, but the new NTU circuit saves time and energy by eliminating these data transfers. In addition, the circuit can double the speed of current processors found in laptops and mobile devices. The prototype ReRAM circuit processes data in four states instead of two. Since ReRAM uses different electrical resistance to store information, it could store the data in an even higher number of states, speeding up computing tasks beyond current limitations. Using this technology “not only for data storage but also for computation could open a completely new route towards an effective use of energy in the information technology,” says RWTH professor Rainer Waser.

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The Next Supercomputing Superpower–Chinese Technology Comes of Age

Asian Scientist (01/03/17) Rebecca Tan

China has been the ranking leader on the Top500 list of the world’s most powerful supercomputers since June 2013, claiming unsurpassed growth compared to all other countries, according to University of Tennessee professor Jack Dongarra. The ascent of China, which did not even make the Top500 list until 2001, raised fears of its supercomputers being used for nuclear applications, given the growing need for such resources to simulate nuclear tests. Despite a U.S. ban on selling microchips to China, Stony Brook University professor Deng Yuefan says China’s supercomputing progress has continued unabated. One result was the rollout of China’s Shenwei SW26010 chips, which put the Sunway TaihuLight system at the top of the Top500 list with a Linpack benchmark of 93 petaflops and also tripled its predecessor’s efficiency. Deng says China is making investments in software development to put its supercomputers to good use. He says this is evident in the use of Sunway TaihuLight by three of the six finalists for the 2016 ACM Gordon Bell Prize, including the winning team, at the SC16 conference in November. Meanwhile, China also is in a race with Japan and the U.S. to build the first exascale supercomputers.

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