You might not need a whole 1.21 gigawatts to travel through time, after all.
Computer engineers at the University of California at Berkeley have found a way to reduce the minimum voltage required to store a charge in a capacitor--an electron-storing device that works somewhat like a battery--paving the way for ultra-low-power computing. This is a result of a project started in 2008 and led by Asif Khan, a UC Berkeley electrical engineering graduate student, and Sayeef Salahuddin, a UC Berkeley assistant professor of electrical engineering.
The engineers took advantage of ferroelectrics, a class of materials that can hold both positive and negative electric charges, even when there's no voltage applied. On top of that, the electrical polarization in ferroelectrics can be reversed with an external electric field.
The team was able to demonstrate that when a capacitor made of ferroelectric-based materials was paired with an electric insulator, the charge accumulated for a given voltage could be amplified in a phenomenon called "negative capacitance." This means you can create a charge that would normally require a higher voltage. And this, when applied to transistors--the on-off switch components that generate the zeros and ones that are the core of binary computing used in all personal computers--would translate into lower minimum voltage required to operate a computer processor. … Read more