Transforming a little noise into a lot of energy A revolutionary way of thinking about electronics has lead to success turning the 'noise' that circuitry emits into useful energy. Many scientific fields from neuroscience to nanoelectronics stand to benefit significantly. Digital Economy © Shutterstock As electronic devices become smaller, the useless noise that their circuitry emits becomes relatively stronger. Normally, such noise degrades the performance of electronics, but new research is coming up with ways to actually boost signals using this noise. This translates into better, faster electronics, thanks to a discipline known as stochastic resonance. The field of stochastic resonance has been hotly debated for over 30 years but little progress had been made before the EU-funded 'Sub KT low energy transistors and sensors' (Subtle) project was launched. Traditionally, in the field of electronics, achieving high signal-to-noise ratios (i.e. lots of signal for very little noise) has been considered the ultimate objective. Now, the principles of stochastic resonance will actually exploit this noise to improve signals in electronic devices, where output may be greater than the input or where the sum is greater than the parts. Research under the Subtle project has unveiled some exciting advances in this respect. The team has developed technology (scientifically known as submicron arrays of resonant tunnelling diodes) that mimics signals between neurons. The technology has also helped develop sensors for signals usually hidden under the noise. The implications offer spectacular potential, as these new sensors operate at less than millivolts, considerably less than the current state of the art. All this, for example, may be used to create neural networks for future quantum computing. Fields such as nanoelectronics, neuroscience, electronic engineering and biomedical prosthetics stand to benefit significantly as well. Such developments and several other discoveries emerging from the project have raised the eyebrows of many corporations. Serious discussions with businesses have already been initiated, with important names in several industries such as Hitachi High Technology HHT, A&D and Novelx. This once again demonstrates Europe's primacy in intricate technology.