We’re often told that Moore’s Law promises an exponential increase in the density of transistors on a chip, but we hear much less about the challenges this generates. One of these is the noise problem.
As transistors become smaller and their power requirements drop, noise becomes an increasingly difficult to combat. The result is that chipmakers are being forced to accept a higher error rate in computations.
But in certain nonlinear systems, particularly biological ones, researchers have long known that instead of swamping signals, noise can play the opposite role, helping to enhance them. The phenomenon is known as stochastic resonance and it has been observed in systems such as neurons and even exploited to improve the perception of certain signals.
It’s relatively straightforward to demonstrate the phenomenon using a ring of identical oscillators driven by a harmonic signal. The harmonic signal generates a travelling wave around the ring but this quickly dissipates after the signal is switched off. Add noise to the system, however, and the travelling wave survives for much longer.
Could there be a way of exploiting stochastic resonance to make computer memory, ask a team from the Instituto Tecnologico de Buenos Aires in Argentina. Their idea is to build a resonator consisting of just two oscillators. They show that such a resonator is able to store a single bit of information in a noisy environment, even after the driving frequency is switched off. They have even built a device that stores a single bit of data in this way.
What isn’t clear, however, is exactly what kind of improvement would be possible on the nanoscale at which a real memory element would have to work. That’s obviously something for the future.
For now, these guys have a clever idea that could have important implications for data storage in future.
Ref: arxiv.org/abs/0911.0878: One-Bit Stochastic Resonance Storage Device
A Roomba recorded a woman on the toilet. How did screenshots end up on Facebook?
Robot vacuum companies say your images are safe, but a sprawling global supply chain for data from our devices creates risk.
A startup says it’s begun releasing particles into the atmosphere, in an effort to tweak the climate
Make Sunsets is already attempting to earn revenue for geoengineering, a move likely to provoke widespread criticism.
10 Breakthrough Technologies 2023
These exclusive satellite images show that Saudi Arabia’s sci-fi megacity is well underway
Weirdly, any recent work on The Line doesn’t show up on Google Maps. But we got the images anyway.
Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review
Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.