by Tom Simonite

In cult sci-fi tale Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, the most powerful computer in the universe was charged with finding the answer to life, the universe, and everything.

In the real world, a newly built supercomputer that is the most powerful ever dedicated to science will be tackling questions about energy use and generation, climate change, supernovas, and the structure of water.

by Christine Blackman

Stanford researchers have developed a method of stacking and crystalline semiconductor layers that sets the potential for three-dimensional microchips.

The scientists added tiny growing crystals called nanowires to a sheet of silicon, and then topped it off with a layer of non-crystalline (amorphous) germanium. With heat, the nanowires, which have the same internal structure as that of the silicon, transformed the amorphous germanium layer into a perfect crystal. Integrating germanium onto silicon is a difficult process that is important for fabricating future, three-dimensional integrated circuits, on microchips.

by David Chandler

Researchers at MIT have found a novel method for etching extremely narrow lines on a microchip, using a material that can be switched from transparent to opaque, and vice versa, just by exposing it to certain wavelengths of light.

Such materials are not new, but the researchers found a novel way of harnessing that property to create a mask with exceptionally fine lines of transparency. This mask can then be used to create a correspondingly fine line on the underlying material.

Oscilloscope traces showing the doubling in frequency of an electromagnetic signal processed through their experimental graphene David Chandler

New research findings at MIT could lead to microchips that operate at much higher speeds than is possible with today's standard silicon chips, leading to cell phones and other communications systems that can transmit data much faster.

The key to the superfast chips is the use of a material called graphene, a form of pure carbon that was first identified in 2004. Researchers at other institutions have already used the one-atom-thick layer of carbon atoms to make prototype transistors and other simple devices, but the latest MIT results could open up a range of new applications. 

The MIT researchers built an experimental graphene chip known as a frequency multiplier, meaning it is capable of taking an incoming electrical signal of a certain frequency -- for example, the clock speed that determines how fast a computer chip can carry out its computations -- and producing an output signal that is a multiple of that frequency. In this case, the MIT graphene chip can double the frequency of an electromagnetic signal.

The light field, first described in Arun Gershun's classic 1936 paper of the same name, is defined as radiance as a function of position and direction in regions of space free of occluders. In free space, the light field is a 4D function - scalar or vector depending on the exact definition employed. Light fields were introduced into computer graphics in 1996 by Marc Levoy and Pat Hanrahan. Their proposed application was image-based-rendering - computing new views of a scene from pre-existing views without the need for scene geometry. (A workshop on image-based modeling and rendering was held at Stanford in 1998.)

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