Electron Computer Theory Could Save Energy

Physicists Philippe Jacquod and Peter Stano from the University of Arizona believe they have found a way to store data using electrons, potentially saving the amount of power a computer would need by limiting the amount of electric current that today’s microprocessors require.

We recently reported on a new type of code that could also reduce power, but both Greenpeace and the U.N. are warning people that computers are rapidly consuming energy that is harmful to the environment. The answer to the problem may be magnets, and how they work.

Electron Magnetic Field

image via National High Magnetic Field Laboratory

Modern computers analyze information on the famous 0 and 1 binary scale, several electrical charges indicate a 1, and very few electric charges indicate a zero. The data is therefore dependent on a constant power source in order to be processed. Electrons, like magnets with a north and south pole, naturally produce a magnetic field, and if researches can find a stable way to determine what “spin” or pole is pointing up, then future devices could use a positive or negative reading from electrons as the basis of the 0 or 1 binary code.

There are, however, major hurdles before such technology could be implemented. First, widely-used circuits read electrical signals, not magnetic poles, and scientists have yet to find a way to use iron magnets, which are too week, or large magnetic fields, which are too powerful, to convert and electron’s spin into an electric signal.

Still, the physicists are hopeful that, by using a quantum point contact with a nanoscale magnetic field surrounding it, they can isolate a few electrons, and by reading the changes in the applied magnetic field, determine an overall excess spin in one direction or another. Although theoretical, the idea does use existing technology. Someday, the hope is to be able to isolate single electrons at a time, measure their spin, along with intermediate stages simultaneously, and achieve quantum computing abilities.

Aaron Colter is a freelance writer and marketing consultant in Portland, Oregon. A graduate of Purdue University, he has worked for the NCAA, Dark Horse Comics, Willamette Week, AOL, The Huffington Post, Top Shelf Productions, DigitalTrends, theMIX agency, SuicideGirls, EarthTechling, d'Errico Studios and others. He is also the co-founder of BananaStandMedia.com, a free record label, recording studio, and distribution service for independent musicians.