Towards Low Energy Tech - Hardware for Future Computing » The MacDiarmid Institute
Towards Low Energy Tech - Hardware for Future Computing

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Towards Low Energy Tech - Hardware for Future Computing

Towards Low Energy Tech

Our smart phones and tablets have become an integral part of our lives. But the massive data centres worldwide that support our digital lifestyles use almost ten times as much electricity per year as the whole of New Zealand. And current research that’s trying to improve computing systems based on silicon transistor technology, is hitting a technological roadblock.

We will research:

  • Computers able to process information more like the brain. We’ll be studying how to reproduce some of the properties of biological neurons using molecular electronics, nanomaterials, and soft matter.
  • Computing that uses far less energy compared to conventional electronics, based on quasiparticles using superconductivity, spin order (magnetism), or topological order within a solid material.

Massive data centres worldwide that support our digital lifestyles use almost ten times as much electricity per year as the whole of New Zealand.

FC v2

Our vision for materials research driving towards low energy computing

FC Project 1: Demonstrate reservoir computing with electronic and optical networks

Project Leader:

Natalie Plank

Lead Principal Investigators:

Martin Allen, Simon Brown, Natalie Plank, Nicola Gaston, Eric Le Ru.

We’ll be exploring ‘neuromorphic’ (brain-like) computing using films of nanoparticles (or clusters). We have recently shown that these complex networks of ‘memristor-like’ elements have both brain-like structures and strongly correlated brain-like patterns of electrical signals. (A memristor is an electrical component that can regulate the flow of electrical current in a circuit (like a resistor) but also remembers the amount of charge that has previously flowed through it - hence the name). We plan to exploit these signals in order to implement on-chip computational processes such as pattern recognition and time series prediction. Metal oxide semiconductors (and networks of them) are one of the contributing technologies for our ‘brain-inspired’ reservoir computing goals, especially oxygen vacancy channels in Gallium Oxide memristors. We’ll study all of these using a combination of experimental synthetic (molecular beam epitaxy, pulsed laser deposition, and rf sputtering), analytical (optical, cathodoluminescence and synchrotron X-ray spectroscopy) and theoretical (ray tracing modelling and ab initio electronic structure theory) methods.

FC Project 2: Realise future computing with biological and soft matter 

Project Leader:

Charles Unsworth

Lead Principal Investigators:

Charles Unsworth, Bill Williams.

We’ll stimulate 2D organised gel grid networks of human cells, and record how they learn, in order to better understand rudimentary computing in organic systems on a chip. We’ll also look at Pectins, which have been shown to be involved in plant responses to heat or cold temperature stress. With an eye to future computing, we’ll use our expertise in the fine structure design of pectic polymers to work towards a sustainable high-tech device based on pectin for monitoring temperature and internal stresses.

FC Project 3: Control electron transport and spin through superconductivity and topology

Project Leader:

Simon Granville

Lead Principal Investigators:

Franck Natali, Ben Ruck, Michele Governale, Simon Granville.

Triplet superconductivity in SmN: effects of correlations and disorder 

Samarium Nitride (SmN) is a material that is simultaneously ferromagnetic and superconductive, and therefore is an ideal candidate for applications in the field of superconducting spintronics. We’ll study riplet superconductivity in SmN, in particular the effects of correlations and disorder. We’ll also use electrical transport and spectroscopy to study the electronic phase diagram of Samarium Nitride.

Novel low-energy switching elements are needed for the next generation of high-performance computing. We’ll develop sandwiches of different materials, known as oxide heterostructures, which are capable of switching between superconducting and resistive states. We’ll be using oxide thin-film growth, and multiple techniques to characterise physical and electrical properties, in order to develop an understanding of the underlying physics.

Technology built on ferromagnetic thin films gave us the high-capacity hard drives that led to the internet and all the huge benefits of modern computing available today. Now research into magnetic materials is focused on achieving new forms of computing that are ultra-fast and extremely energy-efficient. We’ll work to make prototype spintronics memory devices that use topologically interesting electronic states. We’ll also study control and switching properties of superconducting structures using ferromagnetic semiconductors.

FC4: Develop novel ram architectures using topological nanostructures 

Project Leader:

James Storey

Lead Principal Investigators:

Ulrich Zülicke, Grant Williams, James Storey.

We’ll study topological insulator nanoparticles, looking at how size affects their physical properties. We’ll also explore theoretically the device applications, and electronic and optical properties, of topological nanomaterials.

PhD Scholarships available in Hardware for Future Computing

See here for the full list of PhD Scholarships available in Hardware for Future Computing funded by the MacDiarmid Institute and how to apply.

In the news

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PhD candidate and MacDiarmid Institute researcher Stephanie Lambie from successfully kick-started a new collaboration with FLEET.

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Our efforts towards supporting emerging science entrepreneurs links students, experienced researchers, industry and investors across the country.

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New Associate Investigators 2019 - Annual Report 2019

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An overview of the research interests of each of our nine new Associate Investigators.

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Videos

Lasers, Milk and Sperm - Cather Simpson

March 21, 2019

Professor, Associate Investigator, and Director of the Photon Factory, Cather Simpson talks about her work in photonics and how her curiosity about how materials behave at the nanoscale has positive implications on the economy and our health and wellbeing.

Read more Lasers, Milk and Sperm - Cather Simpson

Alison Downard - hi-tech painting

March 21, 2019

Professor Alison Downard, a researcher at the MacDiarmid Institute and the University of Canterbury explains "hi-tech painting" techniques to develop surface coatings to boost the effectiveness of energy storing devices.

SAVVY Express: Science Media Centre - MacDiarmid Institute

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MacDiarmid Institute alumna Dr Rebecca Hawke: researching new solar cells

February 25, 2019

Physicist and MacDiarmid Institute alumna Dr Rebecca Hawke talks about solar cells and where science has taken her around the world.

This video includes captions.

1. Where in the world would you study science?

2. What are 5 items you can see around you that materials scientists worked on?

Read more MacDiarmid Institute alumna Dr Rebecca Hawke: researching new solar cells

2017 Lecture Series: Women in nanoscience

February 16, 2019

In the 2017 MacDiarmid Institute Regional Lecture Series: Women in nanoscience, three female MacDiarmid Institute nanoscientists tell their personal stories of life in science. Professors Penny Brothers and Cather Simpson, and Dr Michelle Dickinson (aka Nanogirl) give their own perspectives on what it is like being a woman in the physical sciences (physics, chemistry or engineering).

Read more 2017 Lecture Series: Women in nanoscience

2018 Lecture Series: MacDiarmid - to Industry and Beyond!

February 16, 2019

In the 2018 MacDiarmid Institute Regional Lecture Series: MacDiarmid - to Industry and Beyond! Associate Professor Ben Ruck and Dr Harry Warring talk about their lives and work.

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Podcasts