Researchers show ternary replacement for binary processor

From bits to trits: Ternary logic on a processor would be more energy efficient than binary. (Getty Images)

Researchers in South Korea have demonstrated an energy-efficient ternary metal-oxide semiconductor on a large-sized wafer for the first time.

The study was published in Nature Electronics July 15 by a group led by Prof. Kyung Rok Kim of the Center for Nanoelectronic Brain-inspired Systems in the department Electrical Engineering at Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology in Ulsan, Korea.

Ternary refers to a base three logic system, while many modern processors rely on base two logic. Using ternary with 0,1,2 reduces the amount of information semiconductors need to process and operates faster. This results in less power consumption, according to the research.

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In one example, today’s binary system requires eight bits to convert the number 128 from base 10. With ternary, only five “trits” are required.

A basic example of a ternary number is 11111, which means there is one 1, one 3, one 9, one 27 and one 81, for a total of 121 in the base 10 system.

It could take five years to commercialize the ternary semiconductor technology, which could transform emerging industries such as AI, IoT, biochips and robots. Samsung Electronics has backed Kim’s research since 2017 via Samsung’s Science & Technology Foundation.

“The power density limits of complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor (CMOS) technology could be overcome by moving from a binary to a ternary logic system,” the research paper says.

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