New MIT Superconductor


Integrated and superconducting Circuits could become 50 to 100 times more efficient thanks to MIT scientists that have invented a new circuit design, which could make simple superconducting devices much cheaper to manufacture.


So what is so great about superconducting circuits?


Superconducting CPU’s would be a lot more powerful than traditional CPU’s, with a prototype being clocked in at 770 Ghz, which is over 500 times faster than an iPhone 6 processor. The researchers have named their invention the Nanocryotron (N-tron for short), after an experimental computer circuit from the 1950’s.


“The superconducting-electronics community has seen a lot of devices come and go, without any real-world application,” said MIT researcher, Adam McCaughan. “But in our paper, we have already applied our device to applications that will be highly relevant to future work in superconducting computing and quantum communications.”


So what’s all the fuss about having an electronic circuit without electrical resistance?


Put simply, a standard conductor like copper will have some level of resistance, as electrons move through the wire some of them hit the copper atoms, releasing energy in the form of heat. Less heat means less energy loss in the system and any saving in energy is always a benefit for any electronic device.



Superconductors are normal materials that are cooled to extremely low temperatures, which lowers their atomic vibrations, allowing electrons to pass through without colliding with the materials atoms. The researchers would cool their circuits with niobium nitride and in a real world applications, could run them on a closed circuit of liquid helium, similar to how a fridge runs on Freon.


Although these circuits are unlikely to produce much more than 1 Ghz in their current form, they can be used to replace expensive “Josephson junctions” that require sensitive lab equipment to detect any usable data. In experiments, McCaughan demonstrated that currents even smaller than those found in Josephson-junction devices were adequate to switch the nTron from a conductive to a nonconductive state.


It may not sound like huge news and we doubt we will be seeing a liquid helium infused iPhone in the future, but for the scientific community this is a great invention that will lower the costs of running some experiments, which is always great news in the current global economic climate.


Stay Curious – C.Costigan

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