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Fast Clocks for Fast Chips

In the world of high-speed computer chips, timing is everything. Without a clock, processors are useless, and the faster and smaller the chip, the harder it is to keep steady time. The latest superconducting chips-circuits that deliver astonishing electrical speed when kept at extremely cold temperatures-are the electronic equivalent of an untamed bucking bronco. In search of a faster timing device that can harness their power, Mark F. Bocko, professor of electrical engineering at the University of Rochester, has developed a clock with a built-in diagnostic chip that can measure and adjust its own timing. Already, Bocko’s team has successfully clocked a superconducting circuit running at 50 gigahertz. The clocks could eventually handle chips running at “several hundred gigahertz,” says Bocko. The team is working with an Elmsford, NY, electronics company called Hypres to construct superconducting equipment for wireless communications. -C. Conti

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Every year, we pick the 10 technologies that matter the most right now. We look for advances that will have a big impact on our lives and break down why they matter.

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