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Transistor Made From Bose-Einstein Condensate

kdawson posted more than 7 years ago | from the cold-circuitry dept.

Hardware Hacking 80

holy_calamity writes "US researchers have made a transistor from a Bose-Einstein condensate. They claim it to be the first step towards 'atomic circuits' that run with atoms instead of electrons. 'A small number of atoms can be used to control the flow of a large number of atoms, in much the same way that an FET uses a gate voltage to control a large electric current,' says lead research Alex Zozulya. The abstract of their paper is freely available."

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80 comments

Wouldn't this be slower? (2, Insightful)

haluness (219661) | more than 7 years ago | (#17818604)

Given that electrons are so much smaller (and hence faster) than atoms, wouldn't this lead to slow circuits? What is the advantage of use atoms in place of electrons?

More probably faster (5, Informative)

HomelessInLaJolla (1026842) | more than 7 years ago | (#17818672)

More physics, more chemistry...

Electrons are areas of probability density for energy.

Photons are discrete packets of energy.

Energy is related to mass, most commonly, as E=mc^2.

In conventional circuits there is a signal passed by energy. That energy is passed in bulk as the movement of electricity, or the flux of the electron fields around the atoms which make up the conducting wire.

If one could deal in smaller amounts of energy--say the quanta required to excite an electron from one energy level to the next--then one is dealing arguably in portions of electrons. Arguably.

It's the same principle as the recent research using fiberobtic materials for processor fabrication. If one uses light, rather than electricity, then friction is minimized, energy lost to heat is minimized, and the bulk signal of photon flux can be modulated more quickly than the bulk signal of electron flux.

E=mc^2. It's all the same. You can pass bowling balls or you can pass bee-bees.

Re:More probably faster (5, Funny)

batquux (323697) | more than 7 years ago | (#17818888)

E=mc^2. It's all the same.
One might even say it's all relative.

Re:More probably faster (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17819224)

You kill me. :)

Re:More probably faster (3, Funny)

Monkeys with Guns (1002565) | more than 7 years ago | (#17819648)

Passing bowling balls sounds painful.

Passing objects... (2, Funny)

Khyber (864651) | more than 7 years ago | (#17825368)

"You can pass bowling balls or you can pass bee-bees." Given what I've passed from my kidneys, I'll stick with the bee-bees, TYVM!

Re:More probably faster (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17827274)

You don't know what you are talking about.
E=mc^2 is the formula for equivalence between mass and energy. There is no new mass or energy being created in what you are describing - that would require some sort of nuclear reaction. This is just the change of energy from one form to another.

Re:More probably faster (1)

HomelessInLaJolla (1026842) | more than 7 years ago | (#17836950)

> There is no new mass or energy being created in what you are describing

On the contrary. If an electron is excited to a higher energy level by the addition of energy from a photon then, during the time it takes for the electron to go through whatever relaxation is necessary to re-emit a photon and regain its original state, the cloud of probability resembling that electron has more energy or more mass. Due to Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle we don't really know which it is.

> This is just the change of energy from one form to another

Consider fiberoptic cable. Now consider the polymer from which it is made. Now consider a single monomer molecule of that polymer. Now consider the electron density field which makes up the HOMO (highest occupied molecular orbital) which absorbs the light used in fiberoptic transmission. When the molecule absorbs the photon the electron density transforms from the HOMO to the former LUMO (now the HOMO). No matter what the relaxation mode is for that particular molecule (certain molecules relax more quickly and make good fiberoptic cable for high speed transmission. other molecules relax more slowly and make good molecules for glow-in-the-dark clothing) the fact remains that, for the duration between the absorption of the photon and the emission of another photon, the electron probability cloud has either a higher energy (which it does) or a higher mass (which it does) or both. For that duration the exciting photon and the electron cloud cease to be separate entities.

Re:More probably faster (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17830348)

"Pass bowling balls?" I thought only goatse could do that!

Re:Wouldn't this be slower? (4, Informative)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 7 years ago | (#17818674)

Maybe it's determinism or something. Electrons jump tracks and when you speed up your switching rates, meaning you're controlling (and switching on) smaller groups of electrons, you end up with problems with electrons jumping the track. IIRC the DEC Alpha was the first CPU in which this problem cropped up and they ended up making two 45 degree turns in their paths instead of a single 90 degree turn for the first time. This comes at a cost in real estate. Perhaps it would ultimately provide an improvement in overall performance, or at least performance per unit of area.

Re:Wouldn't this be slower? (1)

Rob T Firefly (844560) | more than 7 years ago | (#17818796)

Does this mean that electrons have finally jumped the shark?

Re:Wouldn't this be slower? (3, Informative)

SomeoneGotMyNick (200685) | more than 7 years ago | (#17818746)

What I gather FTA and my formal electronics training, electron based transistors control electric flow as if the electrons were a fluid substance, kind of like water, using electrical charges as the method of control. That electron flow continues to do work in the circuit. A very similar, yet different idea is inferred by using atoms. It appears that a continuous flow of electrons (continuous current drain) isn't needed for atom based transistors. I don't think gobs of atoms flow in such a circuit. Just the mere act of controlling atom flow could translate into a change of state that produces output: binary digits, waveforms, and other control circuits, etc. This will be done at a much smaller scale.

Re:Wouldn't this be slower? (2, Interesting)

biglig2 (89374) | more than 7 years ago | (#17818982)

Of course, but who cares? I want to say "Activate the Atomic Circuits" to my henchmen, so that means we need Atomic circuits.

Re:Wouldn't this be slower? (1)

David Gould (4938) | more than 7 years ago | (#17821954)

Um, sir... we had some trouble getting the Atomic Circuits. It seems they haven't actually been invented yet, so we had to get circuits that use electrons. But they are ill-tempered electrons...

Re:Wouldn't this be slower? (1)

biglig2 (89374) | more than 7 years ago | (#17826022)

Baron Fantastika won't be pleased... That bastard Tesla has already trademarked "Electronullifier" so he was hoping to call his ultimate weapon the "Atomonullifier"

Re:Wouldn't this be slower? (2, Informative)

HTH NE1 (675604) | more than 7 years ago | (#17819758)

It is not the movement of the medium (electrons or atoms); it is the speed the effect across the medium.

<NUMB3RS> Take for example a croquet ball. You could hit one ball with enough force to send it 15 feet to the hoop, but it will have to physically traverse that whole distance. But what if you had 10 feet of croquet balls in a row, one against another? You could hit the first ball with the same force and that force would be transmitted across the length of the adjoining balls faster than a lone ball could travel the same distance, causing the last ball to fly off the end. If you'd done both at the same time, the ball that was at the end of the chain will reach the hoop first before the lone ball could traverse more than a third of the distance. </NUMB3RS>

Re:Wouldn't this be slower? (1)

dennis_k85 (828582) | more than 7 years ago | (#17819906)

It's not a speed issue. Atoms have a neutral electric charge, where electrons have a negative charge. Atoms moving means no net charge is moved, means no current flows, which means there is virtually no power is consumed in the process.

Re:Wouldn't this be slower? (3, Informative)

mOdQuArK! (87332) | more than 7 years ago | (#17820470)

Just because a bunch of atoms don't have a net electrical charge doesn't mean there isn't a current flowing - it's just a current of electrically-neutral atoms (similar to the way water is net-electrically-neutral but still can form a current).

As long as you've got some force (the pressure on the atoms) causing movement, there will be "work" done, which will cause energy usage (i.e., power) - whether or not there is an external electrical field involved. Basic Newtonian physics.

Re:Wouldn't this be slower? (4, Informative)

sentientbrendan (316150) | more than 7 years ago | (#17821048)

>>electrons are so much smaller (and hence faster) than atoms

Electrons actually don't flow that fast through a wire. Less than a millimeter per second.

The reason why electricity is so fast, isn't because electrons are fast. It is fast for the same reason that if you have a pipe filled with water, and you start pumping more water in one side, water gushes out the other side immediately a great distance away, even though water isn't flowing through the pipe that quickly. This happens because although the water is slow, the pressure increases along the pipe much faster. Water is more or less incompressible, so pressure on one side of the pipe causes each water molecule in succession to transfer the pressure through it into the next without moving the molecules closer together by much. Thus the water moves almost as a single block, the force itself being only limited by the speed of light (ideally).

Similarly, although electrons are relatively slow to move, the voltage or electric pressure moves through the wire at the speed of light (practically at about 1/3 that speed). It is *this* speed barrier that we are currently running into in computer design, where the slowness of the speed of light over a few centimeters on a mother board will cause the signals in wires to get out of sync if one wire is slightly longer than the other. This happens there because although the voltage is moving incredibly fast, the clock rate of the circuitry is something like a billion oscillations a second. An electric pulse will only move slightly less than 10 centimeters in a billionth of a second.

I gotta ask... (1)

Khyber (864651) | more than 7 years ago | (#17825300)

I recall one old saying "Remember your nanoseconds..."

Nanoseconds was meaning the time it takes for an electrical impulse to travel down 12 inches of low-resistance (for that time,) copper wire. This was a female Admiral in the Navy, responsible for Fortran, IIRC.

So electrons travel that slow? Which particle travels that fast to allow near-instant current, if not the electron? I'm really curious, as this has always stumped me.

Re:I gotta ask... (1)

Ihlosi (895663) | more than 7 years ago | (#17825710)

So electrons travel that slow?

The electrons that make up regular current flowing in a conductor, yes.



If you want fast electrons, you'll need to accelerate them, preferably in a vacuum, using at least a couple of kV of voltage. Then you'll get to relativistic speeds.

Re:I gotta ask... (1)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 7 years ago | (#17827832)

An excellent post, but I have to throw in a few minor corrections.

1. The "nanosecond" was a foot long piece of wire showing how far light travelled in that amount of time. The good Admiral used these wires to explain the latency in satellite communications. She later used them to show why computers needed to get smaller in order to get faster.

2. Admiral Grace Hopper was responsible for the design and development of the COBOL language. Fortran was invented by IBM's John Backus.

3. The travel of electrons is not electricity. The electrons "bumping" into each other (for lack of a better visual aid) is. Ever see those click-clack desk ornaments that consist of a number of steel balls suspended by two wires each? You know how when you set it in motion, the ball on one end transfers its energy to the ball on the other end without disturbing any of the balls in between? That's how electricity works.

Any delay in electrical transmission is actually caused by the space each electron needs to move in order to transfer its energy to the next electron down the line. This can be thought of more like bumper cars hitting each other. One car slams into the back of another car, which slides forward and slams into another car, which slides forward and slams into another car, ad infinitum. The energy transfer from car to car is nearly instantaneous, but delays are introduced by the empty space between each vehicle.

I hope that clarifies a bit. :)

Re:I gotta ask... (1)

Khyber (864651) | more than 7 years ago | (#17841210)

Thanks for the clarification. I knew about the vacuum speed. I was confused in regards to the language and the meaning of the explanations. That was quite informative, and if I could, I'd mod you up, but no mod points, and no anonymous posting. Let's hope someone else mods you up!

Re:Wouldn't this be slower? (1)

akozakie (633875) | more than 7 years ago | (#17825308)

Thus the water moves almost as a single block, the force itself being only limited by the speed of light (ideally).

Umm... With water, I think you mean the speed of sound. That's - by definition - the speed of an acoustic (i.e. mechanical) wave, the speed at which pressure changes propagate in a given substance. The speed of sound in water is quite high, but not quite the same order of magnitude as the speed of light. An electron, with its charge, is a quite different beast.

I just had a nerdgasm (2, Funny)

alexwcovington (855979) | more than 7 years ago | (#17818654)

Behold, Quantum computing is at hand!

TFA (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17818668)

TFA said "could be made" not "made"

Fscking slashtards

uh (4, Funny)

mastershake_phd (1050150) | more than 7 years ago | (#17818670)

Transistor Made From Bose-Einstein Condensate
 
Ewwww.....

Gross (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17818682)

Why the obsession with making stuff with dead people concentrates?

Bose Einstein? (2, Insightful)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 7 years ago | (#17818692)

Bose Einstein? I bet that's one mighty expensive (and vastly underperforming) transistor radio...

Re:Bose Einstein? (2, Funny)

blueturffan (867705) | more than 7 years ago | (#17819866)

The Bose Einstein Motto: No bass, relatively speaking

Re:Bose Einstein? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17821002)

Does someone want to explain just how the hell is this a troll??

Re:Bose Einstein? (1)

blueturffan (867705) | more than 7 years ago | (#17821592)

I'm guessing one of the mods is a Bose engineer. I can almost hear the sound of my post zooming over his head...

Re:Bose Einstein? (1)

BigBuckHunter (722855) | more than 7 years ago | (#17825298)

I don't know. I've always though of Bose as having plenty of bass... The problem is that it's pretty much all they have. Tizz and boom, with no defined mid range. I always feel like a speaker is out when listening to a Bose setup, and 30% of the sound is simply missing.

BBH

Ah hah! (2, Funny)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 7 years ago | (#17818734)

I knew my Einstein-Rosen-Podolsky bridge machine was missing something! Computer circuits powered by Einstein-Bose Condensate! It's so simple! With this new invention, I'll be able to communicate with the machine back on my world, but never (for reasons yet unknown to science) tell it to retrieve me!

Hmm. That could be a problem. I better remember to set the timer...

Re:Ah hah! (1)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 7 years ago | (#17819954)

I knew my Einstein-Rosen-Podolsky bridge machine was missing something! Computer circuits powered by Einstein-Bose Condensate! It's so simple!
Man, I wish I knew why that was funny. It sounds cool, and I want one ... I just have no idea of what it means. ;-)

Cheers

Re:Ah hah! (2, Informative)

Lurker2288 (995635) | more than 7 years ago | (#17820532)

Unless I'm mistaken, it's a reference to the old sci-fi show 'Sliders' in which boy genius Jerry O'Connell's Einstein-Rosen-Podolsky bridge machine sends him and a bunch of hapless comrades traveling from one parallel world to another with no way to get home.

How could this be practical? (3, Insightful)

maynard (3337) | more than 7 years ago | (#17818792)

To form a Bose Einstein Condensate, the atoms must be cooled to a fraction of 0 degrees Kelvin. How could this ever be used in a practical application?

Re:How could this be practical? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17819162)

How does a comment containing the phrase "a fraction of 0 degrees Kelvin" get modded "Insightful"?

Re:How could this be practical? (1)

maynard (3337) | more than 7 years ago | (#17819270)

Because I am not dividing by 0, as you imply, but am referring instead to a 'fraction of a degree Kelvin above absolute zero.'

Re:How could this be practical? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17819468)

You are still referring to "degrees Kelvin" though...

Re:How could this be practical? (1)

maynard (3337) | more than 7 years ago | (#17819666)

You're absolutely right. It is formally 'degree Celsius' and 'Kelvin'. But - my God - every scientist I know uses those terms interchangeably. I mean, aren't you just looking for a reason to be argumentative?

Re:How could this be practical? (1)

terrymr (316118) | more than 7 years ago | (#17821854)

The use of the word degree is probably more redundant than it is incorrect.

Re:How could this be practical? (1)

TheCrackRat (589015) | more than 7 years ago | (#17819610)

3/4 of 12 = 3/4 * 12 = 9

3/4 of 0 = 3/4 * 0 = 0

Re:How could this be practical? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17821676)

Because I am not dividing by 0, as you imply, but am referring instead to a 'fraction of a degree Kelvin above absolute zero
No, what you said was "fraction of 0 degrees Kelvin", which is different, and doesn't make sense in any meaningful way.

Re:How could this be practical? (5, Funny)

eataTREE (7407) | more than 7 years ago | (#17819170)

With a really, really, really big heat sink.

Re:How could this be practical? (1)

Skewray (896393) | more than 7 years ago | (#17819296)

If the entire CPU is small enough, then the volume that requires cooling to a fraction of a degree is pretty small.

Re:How could this be practical? (1)

maynard (3337) | more than 7 years ago | (#17819538)

Yeah, OK. But the current lithography state-of-the-art is 45nm. Assuming we're talking about atomic gates, that's somewhere around an order of magnitude shrinkage for comparison. So, for a complex device, one would still need a macroscopic cooling system - at least several mm2. Can laser cooling really do that? I thought the trap had to be much much smaller... (corrections?)

Re:How could this be practical? (1)

Skewray (896393) | more than 7 years ago | (#17819802)

Photolithography is probably not the method of choice for making quantum wells with on the order of 100 atoms, so the 45 nm limit doesn't really apply. Something like this would have to be made my electron holography or some similarly sounding science-fictiony method. Making something small without blowing all of the atoms away in the process is hard.

Re:How could this be practical? (1)

maynard (3337) | more than 7 years ago | (#17820000)

Yeah, right. The point is to make a size comparison, not to argue that photolithography is appropriate for burning ~4nm structures. My point is simply that if a modern 45nm chip die might be ~200mm2, that a chip comprised of ~4nm gates would still be a very macroscopic device.

Re:How could this be practical? (1)

Falstius (963333) | more than 7 years ago | (#17819308)

And you thought keeping your overclocked P4 cool was difficult ... Liquid nitrogen cooling is so passé, you're nobody without a femtosecond pulsed laser these days.

Re:How could this be practical? (1)

Gospodin (547743) | more than 7 years ago | (#17819314)

[Warning: I have no idea what I'm talking about here...]

Well, we can make really tiny lasers. And there's a way to use lasers to cool stuff. If you could find a way to isolate the BEC and use active laser cooling, maybe you could turn this into something practical.

Re:How could this be practical? (1)

sconeu (64226) | more than 7 years ago | (#17819418)

But then you'd have to make really tiny sharks for those lasers to be attached to.

Re:How could this be practical? (1)

Gospodin (547743) | more than 7 years ago | (#17821228)

No problem - we'll use the ones those now-passe electrons have just jumped!

Re:How could this be practical? (1)

rrohbeck (944847) | more than 7 years ago | (#17820586)

>the atoms must be cooled to a fraction of 0 degrees Kelvin
But exactly *what* fraction of 0 K?

Re:How could this be practical? (1)

ultracool (883965) | more than 7 years ago | (#17823312)

Don't expect this to be the Next Best Thing in CPU technology. The only foreseeable practical applications are in fundamental physics research, eg. precision measurements, and possibly quantum computing.

Quoting the paper, "The device is not optimized for performance but is arguably the simplest possible geometry showing behavior reminiscent of a transistor." This is just one of the first steps. Using BEC to make a functional quantum computer is a long way off.

I am a postgraduate student studying BEC, and I can tell you that what people are creating at the moment are building blocks - a qubit here, an atom beam splitter there, now a transistor. One day, we will be able to do something "practical" with all this stuff... for now it's just fun to play around with to see what we can do!

Simple. (1)

Ihlosi (895663) | more than 7 years ago | (#17825212)

Build your computer on Pluto. Then you only need to cool the thing a few K from ambient temperature.

Re:How could this be practical? (1)

BigBuckHunter (722855) | more than 7 years ago | (#17825310)

the atoms must be cooled to a fraction of 0 degrees

A fraction of 0? Is that less than a fraction of 1?

BBH

Yeah, but ... (1)

rlp (11898) | more than 7 years ago | (#17818852)

Yeah, but can you overclock it?

Re:Yeah, but ... (1)

powerlord (28156) | more than 7 years ago | (#17819014)

Yeah, but can you overclock it?
Sure ... but you should see the add-on cooling rig.

Re:Yeah, but ... (1)

casey1797 (669151) | more than 7 years ago | (#17819222)

Better question; Can you run Linux on it.

I would imagine.. (1)

Wicko (977078) | more than 7 years ago | (#17819158)

That it would be much more stable would it not? I don't know what kind of power usage it would be, and to hazard a guess, its probably not an improvement, I think they would have mentioned it. But, it might be a more reliable option, in the sense that it might be more resistant to electric surges, from say a lightning storm or something along those lines. I can't see it becoming a consumer level product, but for more specialized purposes.

Re:I would imagine.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17819462)

I can't see it becoming a consumer level product, but for more specialized purposes.

Finally, EMP-proof "brains" for my vast army of hunter-killer robots.

Atomic scale manufacturing? (1)

sanermind (512885) | more than 7 years ago | (#17819424)

Although this might not be terribly usefull for computation, if atomic scale digital logic flow control can be perfected, it might be possible to use it for something far cooler than drexlers nanotechnological assemblers... something more akin to star trek 'replicators' (albeit at near absolute zero)... digitally controlled control of the position of single atoms could revolutionize manufacturing... wouldn't it be funny if the only way we ever manage to achieve the manufacturing precision to make a nanotech assembler would be via a technology that completely obsoletes it!

Anyone read Chris Moriarty's "Spin State?" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17819512)

Anyone read Chris Moriarty's "Spin State?"

It addresses practical applications (in a fictionalized way) of Bose-Einstein Condensates.

A good read, too.

Re:Anyone read Chris Moriarty's "Spin State?" (1)

BigRiff (580967) | more than 7 years ago | (#17819860)

Yeah I'm just finishing it up right now. I figured it would be a average read, but I have been pleasantly surprised. Maybe now we can get one of these BE-condensate transistors and jack into that memory palace my AI wants to show me.

Bose Nova phenomenon (1)

Zdzicho00 (912806) | more than 7 years ago | (#17820186)

Regarding the Bose-Einstein condensate.
Maybe finally someone will find explanation for Bose Nova phenomenon:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bosenova [wikipedia.org]

It's like small thermonuclear explosion and seems like good explanation of all that Cold Fusion stuff:
http://www.lenr-canr.org/ [lenr-canr.org]

/Z

Free Abstract (1)

Fujisawa Sensei (207127) | more than 7 years ago | (#17820292)

They give the abstract away, but you have to pay for anything worth reading.

Re:Free Abstract (1)

Baron Eekman (713784) | more than 7 years ago | (#17820380)

Full article available on the arXiv [arxiv.org] since July 2006

Re:Free Abstract (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17824464)

Thanks

Re:Free Abstract (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17820608)

The article is also available at: http://lanl.arxiv.org/abs/cond-mat/0607706 [arxiv.org]

Old news (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17820314)

http://atomchip.com/ [atomchip.com]

Re:Old news (1)

kd5ujz (640580) | more than 7 years ago | (#17821400)

Is this place serious? They are marketing NV "quantum drive" flash replacment cards, that can store 2TB. I have a hard time beliving some of the claims that they have, like 1GB of Solar Ram ( for space applications) at $750/GB.

Re:Old news (2, Informative)

1karmik1 (963790) | more than 7 years ago | (#17824550)

Rotflmao. The atomchip.com is a fake. this [atomchip.com] is the lens unit of a cdrom :D I'm pretty sure the equipment used for space projects is far more low power than high performance. That site hasn't the right look and the numbers that it spits out are just bullshit, at least imho. Those are just a bunch of random pics of random hardware with nifty custom stickers on it :D Besides, the WHOIS data looks suspect to me:

Administrative Contact:
WIPOI
Shimon Gendlin
21 Reed Lane
Westbury, NY 11590
US
Phone: 516-368-4800
Email: shimon_gendlin@msn.com
Msn? come on..

Re:Old news (1)

kd5ujz (640580) | more than 7 years ago | (#17830076)

Thats what I thought, Looked like a company fishing for VC.

Bose-Einstein Condensate (1)

TaleSpinner (96034) | more than 7 years ago | (#17821864)

What does Einstein's preference for speakers and headphones have to do with it? He's dead, he can't hear anything!

...just a thought... (1)

zogger (617870) | more than 7 years ago | (#17824636)

... what a great name for a microbrew in the right high tech community.

No they didn't? (1)

pb (1020) | more than 7 years ago | (#17825124)

RTFA Much?

Two words: (1)

xeeazgk (850506) | more than 7 years ago | (#17826978)

"Beowulf Cluster"
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