When integrating electronics into end-use devices, OEMs typically desire low noise and a high signal-to-noise ratio for optimal performance. However, a new breed of electronics developed by European researchers actually employs noise as part of the signal, which they believe could someday contribute to faster electronics.
As devices shrink, so do electronics. And noise, which accompanies all signals to some degree, becomes an increasing problem. "Electronics is based on switches, which can turn on and off signals. The smaller the switches are, the more complex circuits can be realized," explains Lukas Worschech, coordinator of the EU-funded SUBTLE project and a professor at the University of Wurzburg. "However, with increasing miniaturization of electronic circuits, an increasing fraction of the applied power is converted into nondeterministic signals that add to the ambient noise. It is sometimes referred to as the thermal death of electronics."
To address these miniaturization limitations, researchers involved in the SUBTLE project explored the option of using noise to increase the signal. By applying the physics phenomenon of stochastic resonance (SR) to signals, the group can increase signal clarity by tuning noise within it. "This is the SUBTLE solution: Do not avoid noise, but exploit noise by SR. This is [made] possible by utilizing the feedback action between switches and conducting channels," according to Worschech. "That is what naturally happens in nanoelectronics; the conductors are very closely spaced to each other. The interaction can even be tailored by the shaping of the conductors."
Capable of enhancing the signal, tailored feedback action is present as a result of the tightly compacted quantum-confined electron channels. "This tailored feedback enhances the signal," according to a release on ICT's Web site. "The devices employ two allied phenomena: back action on the channel gate and noise-induced switching. A channel gate is used to route a signal, and back action is like feedback in an audio system. The subsequent noise can be used to switch the circuit from one channel to another."
The resulting electronics could, according to the researchers, allow for the development of smaller, cheaper, and more-efficient circuits. Visit the research project's Web site to read more about the new electronics.