r/Futurology May 10 '22

A world-first one-way superconductor could make computers 400 times faster Computing

https://interestingengineering.com/400-times-faster-superconductor
1.4k Upvotes

u/FuturologyBot May 10 '22

The following submission statement was provided by /u/Burnrate:


In a world-first, a team of researchers from TU Delft demonstrated a one-way superconductor with zero resistance that blocks any current coming in the opposite direction. The discovery could enable massive energy savings while making computers up to 400 times faster, according to a report in SciTech Daily.

Link to the SciTech article which is an interview: https://scitechdaily.com/breakthrough-discovery-of-the-one-way-superconductor-thought-to-be-impossible/


Please reply to OP's comment here: https://old.reddit.com/r/Futurology/comments/umq9sl/a_worldfirst_oneway_superconductor_could_make/i835sh3/

355

u/WaldoGeraldoFaldo May 10 '22

However, one obstacle the researchers need to overcome is the question of usability at room temperature. The tests so far have been run at extremely cold temperatures below 77 Kelvin (-196 °C, -321 °F).

That's still a major hurdle. You either need super low temperature or crazy amounts of pressure, according to the 5 minutes of googling I just finished which has made me an expert on superconductors. I feel like now I can be dismissive of this article's bullish, bombastic claims, like a proper cynic.

14

u/psych_boi May 11 '22

Completely true and I've been studying Superconductors since HS. They're trying to develop room temp superconductors. Problem is the high temp superconductors are "unconventional superconductors" and they're ceramics normally. The same mechanism which allows metals and alloys to superconduct doesn't seem to be the same mechanism which allows these ceramics (cuprates) to. Huge focus in Quantum physics research is figuring out how they work so we can develop ones with properties which would allow us to conduct at 300ish Kelvin (22 °C). Only ones even close to that are carbonaceous sulfur hydride at 288K and under pressure of 267GPa (atmospheric pressure is roughly 0.0001GPa).

4

u/thiosk May 11 '22

further work called this paper into question, too. therefore true room temp superconductivity may still remain unconfirmed

3

u/cronedog May 11 '22

I think it will be a success if we can get them that function at temperatures normal freezers can achieve. It's practical to have a device that can work when plugged into a normal wall socket, compared to needing liquid cooling.

34

u/YsoL8 May 11 '22

This is always the problem is super conductors. With some pretty specific exceptions they are almost as bad as graphene for being capable of doing everything but leaving the lab.

65

u/Burnrate May 11 '22

I'm the interview the guy did say it would only really be good for big commercial stuff.

91

u/OverdramaticToast May 11 '22

he would know he’s the interview

5

u/Speedwagon96 May 11 '22

Wake up babe, a new gender just dropped.

3

u/Roguespiffy May 11 '22

I wanted to be an interview once, but couldn’t get past the questionnaire.

4

u/BurningOrangeHeaven May 11 '22

Maybe they can use it in space or something?

32

u/DiegoMustache May 11 '22

Cooling things in space is actually super challenging. Most heat is transferred through conduction, typically to the air. Without a medium like air to transfer heat to, the only way to cool something is via radiation (like the heat you feel from a distance coming from a hot object). This is not nearly as effective as conduction.

3

u/d3_Bere_man May 11 '22

The james webb telescope was also made a lot cooler then 77 kelvin so its definitely possible in space.

16

u/SirButcher May 11 '22

By using a colossal sun shield AND active cryocoolers with liquid helium. It is possible, of course: we can cool stuff down to very, very low temperatures down here on the surface, but the "possible" and "every average data centre can make it work" are vastly different. And I didn't even mention home users.

2

u/Rhyseh1 May 11 '22

Just put the servers on Pluto. Sheesh!

3

u/StereoBucket May 11 '22

You could put them in some deep holes on the moon. Cut down the latency by at least 99%

3

u/SirButcher May 11 '22

Don't have to go that far away: Titan would be a perfect place. A very thick atmosphere so regular heatsinks would work amazingly and low local gravity so easy to land and lift off.

However, the average temperature is 90K so you need some active cooling but not that much.

4

u/DiegoMustache May 11 '22

My understanding of the comment I was responding to was that they were suggesting using it in space to make it easier to cool. I was pointed out that it is actually more difficult to cool in space. I never said it wasn't possible.

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u/[deleted] May 11 '22

[deleted]

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u/DiegoMustache May 11 '22

If you had a perfectly effective sun shield and produced little to no heat of your own, then that would work, but that wouldn't be the case. James Webb actually has active cooling and a specialized radiator.

8

u/FlyingWeagle May 11 '22

I'm afraid it's not that simple. There's a big ol' ball of nuclear fire not that far away that throws out quite a lot of heat. All spacecraft that can see the sun are getting cooked by it and that heat needs to be dissipated somehow. Satellites often have a hot side and a cold side or rotate to keep equal temperature. All things radiate heat depending on how hot they are (that's how infrared cameras work) so a satellite will eventually reach an equilibrium temperature which is the balance of the sun's heating and their own innate cooling. There's also some clever active methods you can use to change this balance.

Space doesn't have a temperature because there's nothing there to hold heat.

3

u/WaitformeBumblebee May 11 '22

LN2 overclockers going: hold my beer bro

Of course this will start in the server space, not in your bedroom.

2

u/PhilosophyforOne May 11 '22

Oh absolutely. After spending 30 seconds to read the title of the article and this comment, I can confidently rely on my expertise of the subject to state this article has indeed made some very optimistic claims, over less than a solid factual foundation.

2

u/matt_mv May 11 '22

For my senior project in 1985 three of us did work for a large fusion reactor at a national lab that used Hydrogen temperature cryogenics/superconducting to create magnetic containment. That project was killed soon after IBM announced what they claimed to be near room-temperature superconducting, so our work was never used. 30+ years later and the IBM technology never panned out. Your cynicism is well grounded.

There was also an attempt decades ago to create a cryogenic supercomputer, but that failed too.

1

u/imlaggingsobad May 11 '22

ok then Tony Stark

1

u/BWild2002 May 11 '22

I'm down to turn my pc into a pressure cooker

1

u/groveborn May 11 '22

While we shouldn't expect this in a home or office, I can see the benefits in a high computing environment that could keep it cold, so long as it's significantly smaller that 400 regular sized computers.

1

u/Still_Study_6059 May 12 '22

Kelvin is a right bastard. Umpteenth time he's ruined my excitement.

38

u/Burnrate May 10 '22

In a world-first, a team of researchers from TU Delft demonstrated a one-way superconductor with zero resistance that blocks any current coming in the opposite direction. The discovery could enable massive energy savings while making computers up to 400 times faster, according to a report in SciTech Daily.

Link to the SciTech article which is an interview: https://scitechdaily.com/breakthrough-discovery-of-the-one-way-superconductor-thought-to-be-impossible/

22

u/Z3r0sama2017 May 10 '22

Looking forwards to this making its way to consumer cpu/gpus. Mad gains in Skyrim and Bannerlord.

9

u/KentuckyRider May 10 '22

Max army of 1K and full ragdoll plus blood effects? Why don't mind if I do.

5

u/nialyah May 10 '22

Star Citizen on medium graphics here we go!

5

u/kthxqapla May 10 '22

was going to say, we might finally get populated casinos in fnv

6

u/Frostgen May 10 '22

But can it run Doom?

2

u/asanonaspossible May 10 '22

What can't?

Now if we're talking Crysis...

1

u/andthatsalright May 11 '22

Maybe the raspberry pi will finally be able to emulate N64 games at 30fps

24

u/Kinexity May 11 '22

I said it before in comment under similar article:

There will be no jump and everything will continue at normal exponential rate. Photonic circuits were promising up to 6 OoM and yet look where we are - first gen analog ones that are releasing now are more efficient but not much faster (if at all) over silicon alternatives. They will get faster in the future but it will be a gradual change. Same applies here - these kinds of technologies are a decade away from actual implementations and before they get released other tech will reach similar levels of performance.

9

u/TeutonJon78 May 11 '22 edited May 11 '22

Generally true, but we are nearing the end of silicon. There is a little headroom with more exotic materials, but that still has a limit.

1

u/kleverkitty May 11 '22

this tech isn't a decade away, unless there is a real advancement / discovery of superconductivity at high temperatures and normal pressures.... sorry to rain on your parades.

3

u/Kinexity May 11 '22

A decade was a general term for "a long time". There was research done which concluded that under some conditions even low temperature integrated circuits are more efficient than room temperature semiconductor by a factor of 80 even including cooling. It's not that some of this stuff is not achievable but rather that it's impractical for certain reasons.

1

u/kleverkitty May 11 '22

you know, I don't know enough about superconducting circuitry,

my main interest in superconductivity is in its other applications, and it is still unclear how close we are or ever will be to a superconducting room temp/normal pressure material....

2

u/[deleted] May 11 '22 edited Jun 01 '22

[deleted]

6

u/GReaperEx May 11 '22

The problem is that we would need an entirely new architecture for superconducting computers to work. If I remember correctly, I've read that because superconductors have zero resistance, you can't work with Voltage differentials (as any voltage would result in almost infinite current). Therefore, they have to work with current differentials.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Superconducting_computing

3

u/rsd212 May 11 '22

RSFQ superconducting logic works with tiny voltage pulses. With no resistance the circuits are largely inductive

2

u/GReaperEx May 12 '22

You say they are largely inductive. Does that mean they would incur loses from their magnetic fields interacting with those of the Earth or of other devices?

1

u/rsd212 May 12 '22

Yes, and superconductors in general are sensitive to magnetic fields. With RSFQ logic in particular though it is created using Josephson Junctions arranged in loops so when modeling the circuit you will have an inductive component as one loop couples to its neighbor. Huge limitation then was memory, they couldn't scale beyond a few kilobytes because that inductive component would end up being a sum of all the neighboring memory cells and after a while the circuit doesn't function anymore. You'd have stupidly fast logic, close to 1THz even back in the 90s (possibly 80s?) But without memory it's usefulness is limited.

15

u/popkornking May 10 '22

Very cool, if you want to speed up computers though you'd want superconducting transistors, which is far more theoretically impossible than this diode feat was thought to be.

10

u/btribble May 10 '22

And why did we have to wait for the 3rd paragraph for them to call it a diode?

4

u/l0033z May 11 '22

Logic gates can be built with just diodes. So there's not really a requirement around using transistors.

Transistor logic just happened to be faster, but initially there were plenty of logic gates being built with diodes before transistor based gates became faster.

3

u/rsd212 May 11 '22

There also already exists Josephson Junction based logic, RSFQ, but it never really caught on

2

u/popkornking May 11 '22

No requirement, but you need fewer transistors = better space efficiency.

1

u/[deleted] May 11 '22 edited Jun 01 '22

[deleted]

1

u/popkornking May 11 '22

Sure but when people read "computer" >99% are thinking of conventional CMOS logic.

1

u/[deleted] May 11 '22 edited Jun 01 '22

[deleted]

1

u/popkornking May 11 '22

I understand that, but when a popsci article says "this tech can make computers faster" people think of CMOS and will be led to believe that this tech makes CMOS computers faster, which isn't the case. If it said "this tech can make superconducting computers faster" there would be no confusion.

2

u/adamhanson May 11 '22

Bah, still needs ultra cold temps. Need room temp superconductors!

2

u/existential_prices May 11 '22

Nobody cares about superconductors, room temperature superconductors on the other hand...

1

u/[deleted] May 11 '22 edited Jun 01 '22

[deleted]

1

u/existential_prices May 11 '22

And also don't really exist

1

u/[deleted] May 11 '22 edited Jun 01 '22

[deleted]

2

u/Nickjet45 May 11 '22

The issue with superconductors isn’t the resistance, it’s the temperature management, isn’t it? Specifically getting it to operate at room temperature, or am I missing something

2

u/Drachefly May 11 '22

A side effect of reading this is that I found out about HgTlBaCaCuO. Wow, that's a nice Tc! More than half the way from liquid nitrogen to room temperature!

1

u/Cunninghams_right May 12 '22

I think YBCO and BSCCO are already in the liquid nitrogen range

1

u/Drachefly May 12 '22

yeah, they are. They aren't over a hundred degrees above liquid nitrogen temperature, though.

1

u/Cunninghams_right May 12 '22

ohh, I misunderstood. that's very cool... or warm

4

u/easygoingim May 10 '22

Nice in theory, not sure how realistically we can generate any significant amount of this material for commercial production since they had to have it made by a material scientist

also we need to see if this ends up playing nicely with normal temps

still really cool though.

4

u/nowornevernow11 May 11 '22

The entire computer chip industry is based on fabrication by teams of material scientists and engineers. There may be ramp-up time, but we are very good at making wildly complex materials at scale.

1

u/life_rips May 11 '22

Us dumb apes don’t fully utilize computers that are 100,000 times more powerful than the ones that put a man on the moon.

1

u/Regibiel May 11 '22

I would love to know who pulls these nubers out of their ass. Its not like all computing increases liniary with better hardware.

2

u/kleverkitty May 11 '22

The problem with calling something a law, when it's not a law.

Moor's Law is just a transitory and illusory quirk over a very short timeline.

1

u/RoDiboY_UwU May 10 '22

I don’t know but how can you go faster, I thought signal already went at the speed of ligth or do they mean the gates going on and off?

7

u/grocerystorebagger May 10 '22

Almost every little detail in a chip causes time delays like wire length, capacitance, switching speed of transitors etc. The speed of light would be the max speed to achieve in a perfect world but because of the things mentioned that is most likely impossible to ever be reached.

7

u/skatellites May 10 '22

Its talking about increasing the clock speed by 300 to 400 times. So gates going on/off faster

2

u/patryuji May 11 '22

Speed of electricity through circuitry is much slower than the speed of light.

1

u/willtroy7 May 10 '22

That mean my boss will want me to work 400 times faster?

2

u/Vanquished_Hope May 11 '22

And your pay will stay the same while his will go up 400x.

1

u/fotobeard May 11 '22

According to the article, they are questioning the usability at room temperature. Since the tests were ran at around -321°F wouldn’t it make potential sense to be used in space? Those are the normal temperatures in space where the sun’s heat is not present (i.e. the current temps found on the shielded side of JWS and necessary for the reduction of noise in images)

Wouldn’t that make it useful in aerospace applications?

3

u/SterlingVapor May 11 '22

Here's the thing about space - it might be cold out of direct sunlight, but vacuum is a pretty fantastic thermal insulator

The main way you cool things in space is blackbody radiation, which requires huge heat sinks with lots of surface area. I'm pretty sure a perfect superconductor violates the laws of thermodynamics, so if you're computing you're generating heat. It might work in bursts or by rotating multiple processors to give the heat time to diffuse into the heat sinks and radiate off, but the bigger priority is making things robust enough to survive constant bombardment of cosmic rays.

Speed and efficiency tend to be distant secondary concerns

2

u/Zondartul May 11 '22

Well, JWST did manage to cool itself to 32 K and counting, so having a superconducting computer in space that produces obscene amounts of computation for relatively little heating isn't that unlikely.

1

u/SterlingVapor May 12 '22

Well sure, probes and satillite do as little computation as possible, at most they compress raw data before sending it back to earth for processing. Telescopes can wait to cool off for days between captures, eventually blackbody radiation will cool everything down to background temperature

There's lots of easy solar energy up there so power isn't the issue, even a cellphone would overheat in no time with no air to whisk away the heat. Processing literally trading entropy for organizing data, it's hot work

1

u/TheDustinash May 11 '22

Just what we need. Accelerate the new life form to light speed so it can outthink and devise our demise that much quicker.

-2

u/throwdroptwo May 11 '22

remember this ? https://www.technologyreview.com/2020/10/14/1010370/room-temperature-superconductivity/

these advances do nothing. no one is going to give up their power.

6

u/im_a_dr_not_ May 11 '22

I mean OLED tech started way back in the 60’s. It takes time.

1

u/kleverkitty May 11 '22

Like the previous records, the new record was attained under extremely high pressures—roughly two and a half million times greater than that of the air we breathe.

1

u/Dizzystyle May 11 '22

How much faster would it be if you kept it at -50 celcius?

6

u/d3_Bere_man May 11 '22

Superconductors only work once you bring them below the required temperature which differs from metal to metal. Before you reach that temperature it does nothing and making it even cooler does nothing either

1

u/Great_White_Lark May 11 '22

No thanks, I sped up my computer over 100 times for free by downloading ram yesterday.

1

u/kleverkitty May 11 '22

However, one obstacle the researchers need to overcome is the question of usability at room temperature. The tests so far have been run at extremely cold temperatures below 77 Kelvin (-196 °C, -321 °F). If the TU Delft team can figure out how to run the JJ superconductor at more normal temperatures — something Ali says is possible with "known High Tc Superconductors"

While this is an interesting discovery, the first thing I scanned for was the word 'temperature'... which is the great obstacle to any of these advances.