The Gigahertz race was probably one of the most ill-fated ideas in the microprocessor industry in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Intel was almost brought down to its knees by the enormous power consumption and heat dissipation of 3+ GHz speeds in circuits of the time, eventually hitting a wall at 4 GHz. The Gigahertz race has now become a multi-core race, but scientists have ideas to ramp up the clock speed at a faster pace again: Terahertz computers may be within reach – if data is carried over optical instead of electrical circuits.
Researchers at the University of Utah have not given up on the idea of dazzling clock speeds in processors, reminding us of landmark comments made by Intel’s Pat Gelsinger back in 2001: Back then, the executive said that 30 to 40 GHz may be reached by 2010, requiring nuclear power plant-like energy systems within PCs. Ajay Nahata, a University of Utah professor of electrical and computer engine, believes that clock speeds, which are stalling in the range of 3 to 4 GHz today, could grow at a faster pace again within the next years, if systems design will take advantage of optical technologies. Within ten years, Nahata said, superfast far-infrared computers could become commercially available.