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New Research Helps to Predict Electrical Response of Metals to Extreme Pressures

Although we know have quad core computer processors, until now we’ve been limited when it comes to the speed that a single processor can achieve. This is due in a large part to the metal wiring that connects chips, the interconnects, as they are called. Metal has electrical resistance and this slows down the speed as information travels through chips.

However, thanks to a group of researchers, this lag may soon be a thing of the past. A new paper entitled, “Pressure Enabled Phonon Engineering in Metals,” shows that by increasing the pressure on metal, it is indeed possible to lower the electrical resistance and improve speed.

The team included Nicholas Lanzillo, a doctoral candidate at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Saroj Nayak, a professor of physics, applied physics, and astronomy; Morris Washington, associate director of the Center for Materials, Devices, and Integrated Systems and professor of practice of physics, applied physics, and astronomy; and E. Bruce Watson, Institute Professor of Science, and professor of earth and environmental sciences and Jay Thomas, a senior research scientist in Watson’s lab

“We looked at a fundamental physical property, the resistivity of a metal, and show that if you pressurize these metals, resistivity decreases. And not only that, we show that the decrease is specific to different materials — aluminum will show one decrease, but copper shows another decrease,” said Lanzillo. “This paper explains why different materials see different decreases in these fundamental properties under pressure.”

He continued, “We can make this prediction with a computer simulation but it’s much more salient if we can get experimental confirmation,” said Lanzillo. “If we can go to a lab and actually take a block of aluminum and a block of copper and pressurize them and measure the resistivity. And that’s what we did. We made the theoretical prediction, and then our friends and colleagues in experiment are able to verify it in the lab and get quantitatively accurate results in both.”

“Our goal was to understand what limits the resistivity, what accounts for the different resistance at the atomic scale,” said Nayak. “Our earlier findings showed that sometimes the resistance of the same metal in bulk and at the atomic scale could change by a factor of 10. That’s a big number in terms of resistivity.”

This has the potential to completely change the way that circuit boards for computers are made and could dramatically impact the speed of processing chips. But that’s not the only industry that may benefit from these new findings.

Research papers like this show just how much impact engineering students and engineers can have on our world. With their abilities and innate curiosity, our future may end up being dramatically different.

Want a chance to have an impact on technology and science? Ask the experts at Solopoint Solutions for more information about engineering careers today.

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