Quantum knowledge will help cool computers


7 Apr 2011
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Theoretical physicists have discovered that not only do computational processes sometimes generate no heat, under certain conditions they can even have a cooling effect.

When computers compute, the energy they consume eventually ends up as heat. This isn't all due to the engineering of the computer - physics has something to say about the fundamental energy cost of processing information.

Recent research by a team of physicists reveals a surprise at this fundamental level.

ETH-Professor Renato Renner, and Vlatko Vedral of the Centre for Quantum Technologies at the National University of Singapore and the University of Oxford, UK, and their colleagues describe how the deletion of data, under certain conditions, can create a cooling effect instead of generating heat.

The cooling effect appears when the strange quantum phenomenon of entanglement is invoked. Ultimately, it may be possible to harness this effect to cool supercomputers that have their performance held back by heat generation.

"Achieving the control at the quantum level that would be required to implement this in supercomputers is a huge technological challenge, but it may not be impossible," Vedral said.

"We have seen enormous progress is quantum technologies over the past 20 years," Vedral stated.

With the technology in quantum physics labs today, it should be possible to do a proof of principle experiment on a few bits of data.

The findings have been published in the journal Nature.
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