An international team of academic researchers has built minuscule logic machines that physically model computational problems and exploit the innate randomness of nanoscale systems, instead of relying on binary switching.
The machines are formed from phosphorus atoms embedded in a silicon crystal, and each atom can occupy one of four possible states between which it is constantly shifting, based on a specific set of probabilities.
These likelihoods correspond to random electron movements caused by quantum tunneling.
"Our approach shows the possibility of a new class of tiny analog computers that can solve computationally difficult problems by simple statistical algorithms running in nanoscale solid-state physical devices," says Francoise Remacle at the University of Liege in Belgium.
He notes the biggest challenge is realizing complete control of the position of dopant atoms in the crystal with atomic precision and the design of their transport properties.
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