An anonymous reader writes: A team of researchers want to replace transistors with vacuum tubes. Vacuum tubes are nothing new, however the ones in development at Caltech's Nanofabrication Group are a million times smaller than the ones in use 100 years ago. "Computer technologies seem to work in cycles," Alan Huang, a former electrical engineer for Bell Laboratories, told the New York Times. "Some of the same algorithms that were developed for the last generation can sometimes be used for the next generation." Dr. Axel Scherer, head of the Nanofabrication Group, said to the New York Times on Sunday, "Ten years ago, silicon transistors could meet all our demands. In the next decade, that will no longer be true." He argues silicon transistors can only take us so far. Vacuum tubes, for comparison, use tiny metal tubes that can control the flow of electricity. They're especially intriguing to researchers as they can provide a better solution to silicon transistors as they can consume less power and take-up a much smaller footprint. The report mentions they have the potential to bring an end to Moore's Law, even if silicon transistors show no signs of disappearing. For example, Lockheed Martin published new cooling methods in March that could help cool chips with tiny drops of water. With that said, Boeing has invested in researching vacuum tube chips. They may appear in the aviation industry before 2020, but it's unlikely we'll see Caltech's research appear in smartphones anytime soon.
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