A pack of European researchers are working to develop silicon chips that forego wires for carrying electric currents, an advance they say could lead to computers that run up to 500 times faster than today's models.

The nanotechnology being used, known as inverse electron spin resonance, relies on firing electrons into magnetic fields produced in tiny semiconductors.

"We can only go so far in getting more power from silicon chips by shrinking their components," says Alain Nogaret, of the University of Bath's Department of Physics. Universities and research centres in Nottingham, Leeds, Scotland, Belgium and France are also involved in the three-year project, which kicks off in October.

The project is based on research by Nogaret published last year.

While computers are said to double in power every 18 months, Nogaret and his team argue that this rate isn't sustainable given the limitations of electric wiring, which can lead to weakened signals between components at high speed. The wireless technology being developed is different than other wireless technology, such as Wi-Fi, which requires components too large for use on individual microchips.

Wireless semiconductors could become reality five to 10 years after the project finishes, the researchers say. Among the benefits of the chips would be that they could be programmed to reroute signals in the event of failures, something that wired systems cannot do so well, the researchers say.