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Tuesday, 31 March 2020

ERC Advanced Grant to Prof. Dr Sotomayor Torres to reduce energy use in information technology

by Virginia Greco

ICREA Prof. Dr Clivia M. Sotomayor Torres, leader of the ICN2 Phononic and Photonic Nanostructures Group, has been awarded an ERC Advanced Grant to lead a five-year project aiming at developing a disruptive technology based on phononic interconnects to reduce energy consumption of electronic circuits.

The expanding penetration of information and communication technology in our daily life and the progressive development of the internet of things is causing a fast increase of energy consumption, which calls for a radical change in the electronic technologies that we use. In nanoelectronic devices, interconnects, i.e. the connections between various elements of the circuits, use more energy than microprocessors.

ICREA Prof. Dr Clivia Sotomayor Torres, leader of the ICN2 Phononic and Photonic Nanostructures Group, has been awarded an ERC Advanced Grant to head a five-year project in which the interconnect energy-consumption challenge using an innovative approach will be investigated. Named LEIT, from “Lossless information for emerging information technologies”, this project will develop structures that allow taking advantage of phonon properties to transmit information using small amounts of energy.

Phonons, which are quanta of lattice vibration, can be used as information carriers and their transmission requires only a fraction of a millielectronVolt (meV) of energy, which is very low compared to present systems using electrons and/or light as carriers. The drawback of this approach is that phonons suffer phonon-phonon scattering and losses in waveguides caused by interaction with lattice defects and other complex phenomena.

In the LEIT project, Prof. Sotomayor and her group will design novel crystal structures that, thanks to a unique combination of features, will permit phonon filtering, reflection and confinement, as well as transmission from one element to another. These phononic topological waveguides will be aimed at reducing losses and ensuring a longer phonon lifetime to transmit signals. The structures will be made from silicon (Si) and Si-compatible materials, also incorporating transition metal dichalcogenides, thus they can be easily integrated in current electronic circuitry.

Drawing on their extensive experimental research on phonons in semiconductor nanostructures, Si membranes and phononic crystals, Prof. Sotomayor’s team will aim todemonstrate the viability of acoustic phonons as low-energy information carriers. This would lay the scientific and technological foundations of a new phononics-based approach to information processing, with crucial advantages in terms of low energy-consumption, reliability and compactness.

The LEIT project has been awarded a European Research Council (ERC) Advanced Grant (under the European Union's Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme, grant agreement No 885689) for its innovative potential and the solid background of Prof. Sotomayor on the topic. It is a prestigious grant established by the European Union to fund ground-breaking, high-risk projects proposed by outstanding research leaders, who have an exceptional track-record of significant research achievements in the 10 years previous to application.


For more information, read here the press release of the European Research Council.