Lee Center for Advanced Networking

To meet the demand for fast and robust wireless communication, electronic devices must become even smaller and faster than they already are, yet still remain cheap to make. The ubiquitous element silicon is the mainstay of the computer chip industry. But even though silicon is cheap and practical, it resists the passage of electrons, causing the buildup of heat, which can damage electronic devices. And heat is also the primary reason for the output power loss of transistors.

Ali Hajimiri, a Caltech associate professor of electrical engineering and Lee Center member, has been working to find a way around silicon’s resistance and tendency to overheat. In the process, he has virtually reinvented the computer chip. Hajimiri’s area of interest is integrated-circuit design for high-speed communications, both wired and wireless. Most silicon chips have a single circuit or path that a signal will follow; Hajimiri’s innovation is to etch multiple paths on a single chip, dramatically increasing speed while reducing resistance.