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5/24/2002
07:54 AM
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Costs Chill Chipmakers

Scientists have jumped a major hurdle for superconducting chips. The next move is up to chip vendors.

To eliminate painfully slow interchip communication, TRW Space and Electronics Group developed circuits made of niobium that can transmit up to 60 Gbps. But because superconducting chips must be cooled to liquid-helium temperatures, refrigeration costs would run $20,000 to $30,000 a chip, says Konstantin Likharev, a superconductor-electronics expert at the State University of New York at Stony Brook.

If the refrigerators were produced in volume, though, those costs could drop to $1,000 or less, he says. "I don't know what chip manufacturers are thinking. I'm surprised no one has jumped on this."

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