Architectures that would exploit the distinct characteristics of quantum-dot cellular automata (QCA) have been proposed for digital communication networks that connect advanced digital computing circuits. In comparison with networks of wires in conventional very-large-scale integrated (VLSI) circuitry, the networks according to the proposed architectures would be more compact. The proposed architectures would make it possible to implement complex interconnection schemes that are required for some advanced parallel-computing algorithms and that are difficult (and in many cases impractical) to implement in VLSI circuitry.
The difficulty of implementation in VLSI and the major potential advantage afforded by QCA were described previously in "Implementing Permutation Matrices by Use of Quantum Dots" (NPO-20801), NASA Tech Briefs, Vol. 25, No. 10 (October 2001), page 42. To recapitulate: Wherever two wires in a conventional VLSI circuit cross each other and are required not to be in electrical contact with each other, there must be a layer of electrical insulation between them. This, in turn, makes it necessary to resort to a noncoplanar and possibly a multilayer design, which can be complex, expensive, and even impractical. As a result, much of the cost of designing VLSI circuits is associated with minimization of data routing and assignment of layers to minimize crossing of wires. Heretofore, these considerations have impeded the development of VLSI circuitry to implement complex, advanced interconnection schemes.
On the other hand, with suitable design and under suitable operating conditions, QCA-based signal paths can be allowed to cross each other in the same plane without adverse effect. In principle, this characteristic could be exploited to design compact, coplanar, simple (relative to VLSI) QCA-based networks to implement complex, advanced interconnection schemes.
The proposed architectures require two advances in QCA-based circuitry beyond basic QCA-based binary-signal wires described in the cited prior article. One of these advances would be the development of QCA-based wires capable of bidirectional transmission of signals. The other advance would be the development of QCA circuits capable of high-impedance state outputs. The high-impedance states would be utilized along with the 0- and 1-state outputs of QCA.
A QCA-based wire for bidirectional communication (see Figure 1) would be terminated in two branches at each end — one branch for input, the other for output. To enable binary signals to propagate both from the left input to the right output terminal and from the right input to the left output terminal, it would be necessary to apply suitably phased clock signals (bias voltages) to QCA subarrays at various positions along the main wire and the end branches. (For complex reasons that must be omitted from this article for lack of space, such clocking is needed in any event to prevent spurious outputs. Here, the clocking would be exploited for the additional purpose of bidirectional communication.)