As far as most consumers need to be aware a computer is essentially a magical machine that uses electricity to let us share photos of cartoon characters making humourous life observations through Facebook.
However a wall in advancement is beginning to loom, where the components can only get so much smaller.
At the University of Northern British Columbia a team of researchers, including Kitimat’s Aaron Germuth, are at work laying the groundwork for the next computer advancement, making circuits just a molecule wide.
Germuth’s work has taken him to Boston, where he gave a 20-minute presentation to a crowd at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers/Association for Computing Machinery International Symposium on Nanoscale Architectures.
His presentation was from information in a paper he co-wrote with UNBC Computer Science Professor Dr. Alex Aravind.
“The idea is that every two or three years we get the transistors in computers a little bit smaller which means we can put more of them on which means our computers get a little bit faster. But we’re just advancing this little bit by little bit,” said Germuth. “The future is what if we could get these things to be one molecule big?”
An interesting aspect of Germuth’s rise in academic prominence is that he, like many people, didn’t actually know what he wanted to do when he applied to go to UNBC.
In fact, his desire to go to UNBC at all was primarily driven by the fact that a lot of his friends were going too.
Even so, peer pressure that brings you to a university must be good peer pressure, and he’s been more than happy with his choice.
“I’m glad I went because it’s a research intensive university and the professor to student class size means I had way more opportunities to do research with professors,” he said.
His path led him from biochemistry to computer science to the joint-application he’s studying now.
“This is all just theory now and we won’t know whether this can work until science advances to the point where we can manipulate individual molecules. And we’re getting there fast,” he said.
While Germuth was ready to graduate this year he’s opted go on for another year.
After that it’s anyone’s guess where he’ll go but he’s looking at opportunities in some graduate schools. He even has an interview with Google lined up.
And if you think his research will just make future smart phones run quicker, the implications of molecular computing actually goes much further.
“It has a lot of cool applications,” he said. “You could have a computer flowing through your blood that can measure blood sugar.”
Suddenly smart watches seem rather quaint.