The scientists at IBM's Zurich research center say they are learning from nature, building computers fueled and cooled by a liquid, like the human brain, which boasts phenomenal computing power while consuming only tiny amounts of energy.
In the IBM prototype, a "redox flow" system pumps an electrolyte "blood" through the computer, carrying power in and taking heat out. The electrolyte is charged via electrodes and pumped into the computer, where it discharges energy to the processor chips and then carries heat away as it exits.
The technology could, by 2060, yield a one-petaflop computer -- something that once would have covered half a football field, but made small enough to fit on a desktop, the researchers said.
"We want to fit a supercomputer inside a sugarcube," IBM researcher Bruno Michel told the BBC. "To do that, we need a paradigm shift in electronics -- we need to be motivated by our brain.
"The human brain is 10,000 times more dense and efficient than any computer today.
"That's possible because it uses only one -- extremely efficient -- network of capillaries and blood vessels to transport heat and energy -- all at the same time," he said.
Human brains run on 20 watts of energy, whereas today's supercomputers can consume 85,000 watts.
"Ninety-nine percent of a computer's volume is devoted to cooling and powering," Michel said. "Only 1 percent is used to process information. And we think we've built a good computer?"
Selena Gomez drops F-bomb, walks off stage during Jingle Ball performance
Ukrainian protestors topple Lenin statue [VIDEO]