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Superconducting Circuits, Simplified

A square-centimeter chip containing the nTron adder.

A square-centimeter chip containing the nTron adder, which performed the first computation using the researchers' new superconducting circuit.

Credit: Adam N. McCaughan

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers have developed a nanocryotron (nTron), a computing circuit based on the cryotron, which was developed by MIT professor Dudley Buck in the 1950s. The cryotron once was thought to be a possible basis for a new generation of computers, but it was replaced by the integrated circuit.

The nTron consists of a single layer of niobium nitride deposited on an insulator in a pattern that resembles a capital "T." Electrons moving through the base of the T are crushed together, producing heat, which radiates out into the crossbar and destroys the niobium nitride's superconductivity. A current applied to the base of the T can turn off a current flowing through the crossbar, transforming the circuit into a switch.

The researchers say the technology is a promising breakthrough that could be applied to making calculations performed by Josephson junctions, which traditionally have been relegated to a few custom-engineered signal detection applications, accessible to the outside world. The researchers demonstrated that currents even smaller than those found in Josephson junction devices were adequate to switch the nTron from a conductive to a nonconductive state.

From MIT News
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