Self-Healing Chip Could Reach Alpha Centauri in 20 Years
Kyle Maxey posted on December 21, 2016 |
Could self-healing chips be the first manmade objects to travel from Earth to Alpha Centauri?

One of the most ambitious goals of space travel has been to venture beyond our solar system and into the orbit of other stars.

A silicon chip might be mankind's first interstellar starship.

A silicon chip might be mankind's first interstellar starship.

Unfortunately, the vast distances between our sun and even the closest star, Alpha Centauri, is so great that it would take at least 20,000 years for a traditional spacecraft to complete such a voyage. However, a new project being undertaken by the Korea Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) and NASA is proposing a novel method for interstellar travel that could reduce transit time by magnitudes.

Underpinning this new conception of space travel is the idea that a starship wouldn't be a human ferrying vessel, but a silicon chip.

Researchers have calculated that a small chip, or several of them, could be accelerated to one-fifth the speed of light making it possible to travel between Earth and Alpha Centauri in only 20 years.

However, one looming design problem still hangs over this new space travel concept. A silicon chip isn't built to last 20 years.

So researchers are proposing that these spacefaring silicon wafers be built to heal-themselves from below-freezing temperatures, radiation bombardment or from any other nasty threats that exist in the vacuum of space.

While self-healing chips might seem like a futuristic tech, the concept has been around since the 1990s and seems to be exciting engineers to the point of believing an interstellar voyage via silicon chip seems possible.

The key to building a self-healing, space travelling chip is to create what KAIST researchers call a “gate-all-around” nanowire transistor.

With a gate-all-around transistor, the nanoscale wires themselves act as transistors instead of the traditional fin shaped nodes that form the backbone of today's integrated circuit (IC) devices.

In the experimental gate-all-around configuration, the electrodes that toggle a transistor on and off surrounds the nanowire, giving the chip more opportunities to complete a circuit than the traditional fin model that has only a single point of failure.

Though gate-all-around chips are still in the experimental stage of development, researchers believe that production of the chips should begin to take off sometime in the next 10 to 15 years.

If all goes according to schedule, many of us might have the opportunity to witness the launch of humanities first ship to reach out and make contact with a foreign star.

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