Scientists claim vanadium dioxide could transform aerospace and neuromorphic computing
origin : Computing
Date : 2018-02-13
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European scientists have received funding to research vanadium dioxide's potential as a semiconductor in a project that could transform aerospace and neuromorphic computing. By tapping into vanadium dioxide's (VO2) properties, technologists can create more powerful processor silicon and generate a string of new low-power devices. The research is being supported by the Phase Change Switch project, which is part of the European Union's Horizon 2020 programme. It specifically focuses on aerospace and next-generation computing. The 3.9 million euros project, which will run until 2020, is the brainchild of French defence contractor Thales, IBM Research, Germany's Max-Planck-Gesellschaft and Cambridge University. The researchers and engineers working on the study are looking at ways this compound can generate so-called "programmable radio-frequency electronic functions" which could be leveraged in aviation communication systems. They said the unique properties of the material could also be utilised in other applications, including neuromorphic computing and artificial intelligence. According to the project's scientists, vanadium dioxide could become just as important as the switch and transistor when it comes to controlling electrons in a circuit. One of the compound's strong points is that it functions as an insulator at room temperature, but as a conductor when temperatures exceed 68°C. Describing this as "metal-insulator transition", the researchers said that the process could pave the way for technologies of the future. Scientists have long been aware of the electronic properties of VO2, but it is only now that they have been able to make sense of them. They have discovered that its atomic structure transitions when the temperature rises, which could prove lucrative for electronics applications. Making use of VO2 is not easy because the temperature is often too low for most electronic devices, but the researchers have found a solution to this problem. By combining germanium and VO2, it is possible to take the phase temperature to 100°C, which could be transformative for radiofrequency technologies. Adrian Ionescu, project coordinator, said: "VO2 is also sensitive to other factors that could cause it to change phases, such as by injecting electrical power, optically, or by applying a THz radiation pulse."