Tag: university of california

1,000 core chip developed

many-coreA team of boffins has emerged from its smoke filled labs with a microchip with 1,000 independent programmable processors.

The team, from the University of California, Davis, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, developed the energy-efficient 621 million transistor “KiloCore” chip so that it could manage 1.78 trillion instructions per second.

Team leader Bevan Baas, professor of electrical and computer engineering said that it could be the world’s first 1,000-processor chip and it is the highest clock-rate processor ever designed in a university.

While other multiple-processor chips have been created, none exceed about 300 processors. Most of those were created for research purposes and few are sold commercially. IBM, using its 32 nm CMOS technology, fabricated the KiloCore chip.

Because each processor is independently clocked, it can shut itself down to further save energy when not needed, said graduate student Brent Bohnenstiehl, who developed the principal architecture. Cores operate at an average maximum clock frequency of 1.78 GHz, and they transfer data directly to each other rather than using a pooled memory area that can become a bottleneck for data.

The 1,000 processors can execute 115 billion instructions per second while dissipating only 0.7 Watts which mean it can be powered by a single AA battery. The KiloCore chip executes instructions more than 100 times more efficiently than a modern laptop processor.

The processor is already adapted for wireless coding/decoding, video processing, encryption, and others involving large amounts of parallel data such as scientific data applications and datacentre work.

Cool graphene to solve chip burnout

The latest insight into the world of graphene has revealed the potential to stop laptops and other devices overheating, offering an end to burnt-out devices and scorched thighs.

As well as much vaunted possibilities for a future generation of non-silicon based chips, graphene has further applications for electronic devices.  An announcement last week highlighting the material’s piezoelectric properties, for example, demonstrated its flexability.  Indeed, one of the first applications we are likely to see with graphene is in flexible touchscreens.

Now, with a twist on the way the wonder material is usually constructed, a team of researchers from the US and China have shown how it can conduct heat to manage heat dissipation.

According to research led by the University of California, Riverside, by engineering graphene it’s possible to make much more use of the thermal conductivity found in its original state.

This could open up the material being used with a range of electronics, or even with photovoltaic cells, as long as the cost of the material can be kept down following the necessary tinkering.

This is because carbon materials – like the one-atom-thick graphene – are made up of two different isotopes, and by engineering the amount of each it is possible to greatly enhance heat conductivity.

While the applications for such engineered graphene are likely to be in thermal interface materials for chip packaging or transparent electrodes for PV cells, the researchers also reckon that it could help produce chips that work at lower processes.

As chips get smaller they generate more heat, and such a thermal conductor could be used to help silicon from overheating as chip designs get smaller and smaller, either as a heat-spreader or as interconnect wiring.

SSDs harder to securely erase than standard hard disks

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego have found that erasing sensitive data stored on Solid State hard drives (SSD’s) may not be as easy or reliable as they thought.

Two PhD students at the University’s Non-Volatile Systems Laboratory have presented research at this month’s USENIX Conference on File Storage Technologies that show even on-device secure erase commands may be buggy – and ineffective at removing sensitive data that may be stored on the SSD.

The researchers used a FPGA-based flash hardware tester named Ming the Merciless to analyse the data left on the SSD’s raw NAND flash chips, which are used to do the actual storage, and bypass any software built into the SSD’s interface.

They found that the build-in commands to delete all the data off an SSD disk are often reliable, but manufacturers have built versions with bugs causing them to work incorrectly.

Existing tools used to erase normal hard disks are entirely ineffective at destroying the data on SSDs. The final option for removing data from SSDs is to use dedicated software to overwrite parts of the device. These were found to be effective after 2 passes on the disk but not entirely reliable.

The researchers have published their paper online (or check out the synopsis). Also check out this YouTube videoshowing how they rounded off destroying the UK ID Card Database earlier this month.

High greenhouse emissions lower companies' stock price

Low levels of greenhouse gas emissions have a positive effect on a company’s share price, according to a multinational research project.

A team analysed four years of data (2006-09) on firms listed in the Standard & Poor’s 500, along with five years of data (2005-09) for the top 200 publicly traded firms in Canada.

They found that the greater a company’s carbon emissions, the lower its stock price, all other things being equal. The correlation between stock values and greenhouse gas emissions was found in most industries, and was strongest for energy companies and utilities.

“After controlling for normal valuation factors like assets and earnings, we found the value of stocks to be a function of greenhouse gas emissions. It really does appear to be a valuation factor,” says Professor Paul Griffin of the University of California, Davis.  “Greenhouse gas emissions are important to investors in assessing companies.”

The team identified around 1,400 reports of events that could affect climate change, and then tracked the movements of stocks over the next few days.

They found that markets responded almost immediately when a company reported an event that could affect global climate change. “We see a response on exactly the day you would expect to see it, and that is when the information becomes public,” says Griffin.

Environmental specialist Angus Middleton of consultancy Renaissance Regeneration  says that while there are some truly ethical investors, most simply see high emissions as damaging to a company’s bottom line.

Those with low emissions, he says, are seen as more efficient, and also as being proactive, with tighter legislation expected in future.

“There is a real business risk from climate change. Companies that can see this coming and react now are far more likely to be the market leaders in the future and far less likely to be hit by rising fuel, raw material, water and waste costs,” he says. “They are also likely to be prepared for changing climate impacts

Interestingly, the US Securities and Exchange Commission mandates companies to disclose any information material to stock values – but doesn’t include greenhouse gas emissions under this heading.

As things stand, around half of large US firms report greenhouse gas emissions through the Carbon Disclosure Project, a British organisation representing mostly institutional investors.

The study is here.

Scientists create quantum state

Scientists have finally created an object which can be in two places at the same time.

This “quantum state” has only been managed with single particles, atoms and molecules.

According to the journal Nature, which we get for the Schrödinger’s Cat lost and found section, boffins produced a quantum state in an object billions of times larger than previous tests.

Quantum mechanics laws claim that objects absorb and emit energy in tiny discrete packets known as quanta.

It is a bit like coloured glass, which can absorb a certain colour of light. If you say that the light is made up of photons, then the glass atoms absorb only photons with the quanta (or amount) of energy that corresponds to that colour.

If all the energy that an atom gets from the jostling atoms in its environment is removed by cooling it to phenomenally low temperatures, it can reach its “quantum ground state” – no more energy can be removed.

But if you add one quantum of energy the atom can be said to be in two states at the same time.

However, creating these states in anything bigger than single atoms and molecules has proven difficult, because the larger an object is, the more tricky it becomes to isolate it from its environment.

Andrew Cleland of the University of California, Santa Barbara said that although we know that things are not in two places at the same time,  physics says that they can be.

What Professor Cleland and his team have managed is shifting an object just big enough to be seen with the naked eye into a quantum state.

They used a bit of piezoelectric material, which expands and contracts when an electrical current is run through it.

They cooled the whole lot down to a thousandth of a degree above absolute zero and pumped in just one quantum of electrical energy.

The team showed that the resonator was in one of the slippery superpositions of states, with both one and zero quanta of energy.

All this is good stuff for those who want to build a quantum-based memory storage system.