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منوعات تقنية

Scientists Say They Can Fix Your Internet Connection With 3D Wi-Fi

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Photo: Tetra Images (Getty Images)

You’ve probably noticed that your wi-fi slows down when more people or devices use the network. The same goes for larger systems. If you get too many people congregating in one area, the cell phone towers can’t handle the influx. With the number of connected devices growing exponentially and the coming wave of AI poised to make the problem even worse, there are major wireless traffic jams on the horizon. Now, scientists at the University of Florida have a potential solution: just make the chips 3D.

Most wireless communication relies on “planar” processors, meaning they’re essentially flat. Because they’re two-dimensional, they can only handle a limited range of frequencies at a given time. But unlocking a manufacturing process that lets you build chips in three dimensions could let hardware handle multiple frequencies at the same time. That could amount to a revolution.

A schematic of the new 3D circuit design.

A schematic of the new 3D circuit design.
Illustration: Roozbeh Tabrizian

You can compare the problem to traffic moving through a city, according to Roozbeh Tabrizian, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Florida whose team developed the new processors.

“A city’s infrastructure can only handle a certain level of traffic, and if you keep increasing the volume of cars, you have a problem,” Tabrizian said in a press release. “We’re starting to reach the maximum amount of data we can move efficiently. The planar structure of processors is no longer practical as they limit us to a very limited span of frequencies.”

The research, published in the journal Nature Electronics, describes a new approach that harnesses semiconductor technology to house multiple processors built for different frequencies in a single chip. That breakthrough has several benefits. Above all else, it increases performance while shrinking the amount of space that chips take up. Planar chips can only get bigger if you make them wider, but the ability to make chips that increase their capacity in three dimensions instead of two means the technology is much easier to scale.

“Think of it like lights on the road and in the air,” Tabrizian said. “It becomes a mess. One chip manufactured for just one frequency doesn’t make sense anymore.”

As this technology matures, it will mean all of our devices can work better and faster. That’s a crucial development as we charge ahead with everything from smart cities to adding another 12 smart devices to your apartment.

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