Controlling the flow of heat could be another way to store digital information
Someday, computers might store information using not only electric charges or magnetism, but also tiny packets of heat called phonons. Such heat-based memory is theoretically possible within the laws of physics, new research shows, and this memory would be durable and could be read without destroying the information — two key requirements for useful data storage.
Circuits based on quantum packets of heat rather than electric charges could enable computers to use waste heat — which is currently just shed to keep a processor from overheating — to perform useful computations and store information, the researchers suggest in an upcoming Physical Review Letters. A surge of research in the last few years on the physics of controlling the flow of heat packets has yielded designs for heat-based diodes, transistors and logic gates that perform AND, OR and NOT operations.
“This is a promising field,” says Baowen Li, a physicist at t