It\u2019s pretty much just simple energy loss that causes heat build-up in electronics. That ostensibly innocuous warming up, though, causes a two-fold problem:\nFirstly, the loss of energy, manifested as heat, reduces the machine\u2019s computational power \u2014 much of the purposefully created and needed, high-power energy disappears into thin air instead of crunching numbers. And secondly, as data center managers know, to add insult to injury, it costs money to cool all that waste heat.\nFor both of those reasons (and some others, such as ecologically related ones, and equipment longevity\u2014the tech breaks down with temperature), there\u2019s an increasing effort underway to build computers in such a way that heat is eliminated \u2014 completely. Transistors, superconductors, and chip design are three areas where major conceptual breakthroughs were announced in 2018. They\u2019re significant developments, and consequently it might not be too long before we see the ultimate in efficiency: the cold-running computer.\n\nRoom-temperature switching\n\u201cCommon inefficiencies in transistor materials cause energy loss,\u201d says the U.S. Department of Energy\u2019s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), in a news article on its website this month. That \u201cresults in heat buildup and shorter battery life.\u201d\nThe lab is proposing, and says it has successfully demonstrated, a material called sodium bismuthide (Na3Bi) to be used for a new kind of transistor design, which it says can \u201ccarry a charge with nearly zero loss at room temperature.\u201d No heat, in other words. Transistors perform switching and other tasks required in electronics.\nThe new \u201cexotic, ultrathin material\u201d is a topological transistor. That means the material has unique tunable properties, the group, which includes scientists from Monash University in Australia, explains. It\u2019s superconductor-like, they say, but unlike super-conductors, doesn\u2019t need to be chilled. Superconductivity, found in some materials, is partly where electrical resistance becomes eliminated through extreme cooling.\n\u201cPacking more transistors into smaller devices is pushing toward the physical limits. Ultra-low energy topological electronics are a potential answer to the increasing challenge of energy wasted in modern computing,\u201d the Berkeley Lab article\u00a0says.\nElectron spin with magnetic data\nAnother group of researchers from the\u00a0University of Konstanz in Germany say supercomputers will be built without waste heat. That group is working on the transportation of electrons without heat production and is approaching it through a form of superconductivity.\n\u201cMagnetically encoded information can, in principle, be transported without heat production by using the magnetic properties of electrons, the electron spin,\u201d they say in an\u00a0article on the university\u2019s website this month. \u201cSpintronics,\u201d as it\u2019s called, is the electron\u2019s inherent spin and is also related to magnetism. The science, roughly, uses another dimension in the electron, thus creating efficiency gains.\nThe problem has been, though, that the magnetism and a lossless flow of electrical current \u201care competing phenomena that cannot coexist,\u201d the article says. That issue is related to how pairs of electrons become non-magnetic in the process and, therefore, crucially can\u2019t carry magnetically encoded information.\nHowever, the researchers say that they have now figured how to do it. They bind pairs of electrons using \u201cspecial magnetic materials\u201d and superconductors. \u201cElectrons with parallel spins can be bound to pairs carrying the supercurrent over longer distances through magnets,\u201d the university's article says.\nThey say inherently non-heating superconducting spintronics might now be able to replace fundamentally hot semiconductor technology,\u00a0in other words.\nCooling channels on the chip\nAnd then the third breakthrough, and one that I wrote about in November, is where chip design is optimized better for cooling on the actual chips themselves.\n"Spirals or mazes that coolant can travel through"\u00a0should be embedded on the chip surface to cool instead of adhering heatsinks, say the inventors. Heatsinks are inefficient partly because of the needed thermal interface material.\nElectronics could be kept cooler by 18 degrees F, and power use in data centers could be reduced by 5 percent, the spiral-cooling chip scientists at Binghamton University claim.