Imagine this; cryogenic on-chip quantum electron cooling. Yes, it’s a real thing! An electronic device that has the capacity to cool electrons to a chilly -228 degrees Celsius with no need for any external cooling system. Well, that’s what a team of researchers has been able to achieve at theUniversity of Texas in Arlington. These boffins have created a chip with a quantum well that cools electrons while staying at room temperature itself.
So why is there so much excitement surrounding this? Over recent years one of the biggest hurdles that have been faced with the advancements in computing and technology is found in the efficiencies of low power high-performance computers with regard to thermal excitation. The development of cryogenic on-chip quantum electron cooling technology through well cooling could allow for the creation of electronic devices that would need to consume much less power. National Science Foundation spokesperson, Usha Varshney, who funded the research, speculated that potentially as little as a tenth of the energy demand previously consumed in devices may be required in light of the most recent data coming out of Arlington.
So what the heck is a quantum well, anyhow? In short, it is a very small gap between two materials that perform semiconducting functions. Normally, electrons move along one of the semiconductig surfaces, only when there are electrons with very specific characteristics are they able to cross the gap from one surface to the other. In this case with the cryogenic on-chip quantum electron cooling technology, it is the electrons that are very low energy which are able to bridge the gap, while the hotter electrons are routed through the circuit back to their point of origin.
Once there is a cold stream of electrons moving through the quantum well, there is the ability to include other components like transistors into the circuit. To prove the effectiveness of the cryogenic on-chip quantum electron cooling technology, the team from UT Arlington constructed some single electron transistors, which are extremely efficient at responding to thermal excitation, and normally are exposed to liquid helium in order to be cryogenically cooled. The magic happened as these transistors were at room temperature and the SETs worked nicely with a doffing of the cap to the 45 Kelvin electrons.
The next step in the process for the UT team is to integrate the cryogenic on-chip quantum electron cooling technology with electronic devices. Under the laws of physics, as every aspect of computing is interlinked, a reduction in power consumption by the multiplier of ten could dramatically affect just about every facet from device weight and size through to battery life, enhancing performance beyond what we currently know.
The team from UT Arlington also note that further investigation into the cryogenic on-chip quantum electron cooling technology and quantum well construction is very likely to result in a consistent flow of zero temperature electrons. Some amazing advances are quite possibly just around the corner as things get down to absolute zero, at the very least some highly efficient and dramatically powerful computers.