As technology has advanced over the last five decades, the number of transistors on a silicon computer chip has nearly doubled every two years. That trend can’t continue forever, though, according to Physics Professor Matthew C. Sullivan, who says you can’t keep making things smaller indefinitely—there’s a size limit, due to quantum physics.
Sullivan and his research partners are looking for alternative methods to increase computing power, and they have received a $196,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to support their work, which will involve undergraduate students at Ithaca College and SUNY Brockport.
“Increasing computer power, it’s going to fail soon, and that’s why people are looking to other ways to improve computer circuits,” says Sullivan. “That's why people started to try and mimic how the brain works, because the brain is a far more powerful computing engine than almost anything we have on earth.”
Sullivan and his team will be studying thin films of niobium oxide for use in neuromorphic circuits, which seek to replicate the functioning of the brain. The project’s goal is to develop niobium oxide-based electronic components that can seamlessly integrate with current state-of-the-art silicon-based electronics.