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New circuits feed on noise

Digital circuits turn buzzing environments into an advantage

2:58pm, March 12, 2009

Teenagers swear they study better with music blaring in the background, though parents may disagree. Now engineers have made digital circuits work better in “noisy” environments too.

For circuits, the noise isn’t the sound of the latest Top 40, but a background buzz that normally disrupts computer processing. Researchers report in the March 13 Physical Review Letters that they have designed new digital circuits that not only cope with this buzz, but need it to work properly.

The work is “very cool, because it takes the inherent noise in a system and puts it to good use,” comments physicist Raj Mohanty of Boston University.

As engineers design smaller computer chips, noise from electronic component cross talk, electrons moving around and a variety of other sources becomes a bigger problem. “You can imagine that 10 electrons moving around something as big as your arm isn’t a big deal. But 10 electrons moving a

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