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Metamaterial-based computing

Metamaterial-based computing

A case study by Joe Shieldsa and C David Wrighta

aUniversity of Exeter

The problem

All our IT infrastructure, including the internet and all personal computers, use a lot of energy and that is only increasing. So, the problem we are trying to solve is essentially making computers faster and more efficient with a much-reduced energy cost.

The existing state-of-the art in computing is the von Neuman architecture which keeps the computation elements, and the memory and data storage separate. This means there is a lot of wasted energy in the transfer of data. This is called the Von Neumann bottleneck, and we are trying to overcome it by inventing new types of computing where everything happens in the same place - a bit like the human brain!

Our solution

One example of what we are looking at as a solution is a matrix vector multiplier chip, where the co-location of the memory and computations is possible. This chip could potentially be up to 100 times as fast as existing chips. We are also investigating the use of optics instead of normal electronic for performing computations faster and more efficiently.

Why use a metamaterial?

Metamaterials play an important role in these efforts by a variety of means, whether that be allowing us to miniaturise devices or create metasurfaces and meta-devices that have new and interesting responses to light.