Scientists use chaos theory to create new chip

Scientists have developed an alternative to logic gates based on the chaos theory which allows the reconfiguration of chips a billion times a second, giving fascinating prospects for processing.

In a paper published by Arizona State University, researchers announced the development of chaotic patterns used to encode and manipulate inputs in order to produce a desired output, demonstrating on silicon the new logic gate systems named ‘chaogates’. 

The researchers took patterns from an infinitely random variety offered by a chaotic system, with a subset of these patterns used to map the system inputs.  This process provides a method to exploit nonlinear dynamics to design computing devices with a capacity to reconfigure into a range of different logic gates.

It is noted that arrays of such morphing chaotic can then be programmed to perform higher order functions and rapidly switch between such functions.  The reconfigurability offered will potentially give increased flexibility of programmable hardware while still obtaining the optimisation and speed of specific hardware, all of this occurring within the same computer architecture.

This could allow logic gates to be programmed ‘on the run’, for example with a stream of threshold values being sent in by an external programme, being optimised for a specific task at hand.  A working example of this could be a morphing device offering the flexibility to switch between an arithmetic processing unit or a unit of memory depending on the desired performance at the time.

The study noted that nonlinear systems are abundant in nature and so therefore it is conceivable that the concept could have applications in a wide variety of physical systems, from fluids to electronics to optics, opening up the range of platforms that it could be used on. These could include nonlinear electric circuits, magneto-based circuitry and high speed chaotic photonic integrated circuits operating in the gigahertz frequency.

“The chaogates can morph between logical functions at well under a computer clock cycle so you can imagine having a chip that can reconfigure itself billions of times a second based upon what you are currently doing,” Bill Ditto, director of the School of Biological Health Systems Engineering at Arizona State University, told TechEye today.

“This of course opens up a variety of applications. Imagine the impact upon gaming that this will have – a social network chip one millisecond, a real-time shooter programme the next, and then a search engine chip the next,” Ditto explained.

Interestingly, as the chaogates use existing technology it is expected that they will be commercially viable in the near future.

“The chaogates are well along in development, they all work at commercial size and power with conventional fabrication techniques — CMOS circuitry. The designs are all working and we hope to have the commercial prototype chip fabricated first quarter of 2011. Overall, we have the first real competitor to conventional logic and computer chips to come along in 50 years, yet made out of the same circuitry so we don’t have to wait another 20 years for it to become commercial, just a few more months.”

The chips also have massive potential benefits for security.

“An unexpected benefit we get from our chip is the security of the chaogates. As we move to increasingly ‘harder’ data security the solutions are going from software to hardware solutions – just think about why the Department of Defense has banned USB sticks. Techniques for ‘cracking’ hardware security schemes rely upon the inherent insecurity of the logic elements in conventional computer,” said Ditto.

“As it turns out our chaogates are dramatically less vulnerable to this type of cyber attack as they are all identical and use power in an inherently symmetrical way that does not suffer from this type of security hole. Thus chaogates represent a much more secure logic.”

Ditto added that the applications are not limited to conventional circuitry: “We have shown it works in nano mechanical logic, which holds much promise in terms of using very little power, and in engineered gene networks.  We see the computer of the future having mechanical, electrical and biological computing elements that all can work either independently or together to accomplish what our conventional computers cannot do today. I even now imagine a world where our computers can replicate like bacterial or other living cells.”