The trend for computing, and for technology in general, really consists of just one word: Smaller. Previously, technology that could fit on your desk was the rage. Then it became tech that fit in your bag. Then the palm of your hand. Now, scientists are playing with even smaller technology, down to the molecular size.
Scientists have developed a computer system that can, theoretically, be 100 billion times more energy efficient than the most energy efficient conventional green supercomputer. Using only links and rotary joints, this “molecular mechanical computer” removes the need for gears, clutches, switches, springs, and other parts that create friction and generate heat.
The paper published in IMM Report notes that the molecular computer is premised on the idea that simple logic and conditional routing that can be accomplished using only links and rotary joints, which are solidly connected at all times. Any traditional 2-input logic gate, including AND, NAND, NOR, NOT, OR, XNOR and XOR, can be created directly from the appropriate combination of locks and balances.
While essentially all modern computers are electronic, computers can also be implemented mechanically. Power consumption in an electronic computer is proportional to electrical resistance, while power consumption in a mechanical computer is proportional to friction.
This new design of mechanical computers not only makes them far more simpler than earlier designs, but also uses parts that generate less friction, thus consuming less power. An analysis shows that in such a computer, with proper design, friction consumes far less energy than electrical resistance. As a consequence, such a mechanical computer has the potential to provide 10^12 GFLOPS/Watt, over 10^11 times more efficient than conventional “green” supercomputers, which currently provide about 7 GFLOPS/Watt.
It should be noted that these are early designs; almost arbitrary implementations of the new
design paradigm just to show proof of concept. Still, if we can actually implement the design, it would be revolutionary.