Researchers at a Scottish claim to have made a breakthrough in the drive towards more powerful processors while conserving energy too. The team, from Glasgow University, led by Dr Wim Vanderbauwhede, have succeeded in squeezing 1,000 cores on a single chip.

The researchers, working in conjunction with colleagues from University of Massachusetts, Lowell, used a chip called a Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGA) which can be configured into specific circuits by the user rather than relying on the factory settings. This technology allowed Dr Vanderbauwhede to divide up the transistors within the chip into small groups and ask each to perform a different task thus creating a 1,000 mini-circuits – or to put it another way, creating a 1,000-core processor.

To demonstrate the chip's effectiveness, the research team used it to process an MPEG algorithm at a speed of 5Gbps, about 20 times faster than processors used in current PCs.

Dr Vanderbauwhede, who hopes to present his research at the International Symposium on Applied Reconfigurable Computing in March, said: "FPGAs are not used within standard computers because they are fairly difficult to program, but their processing power is huge while their energy consumption is very small because they are so much quicker – so they are also a greener option.

However, he warned that the research was an early proof-of-concept work but added that he hoped "to demonstrate a convenient way to program FPGAs so that their potential to provide very fast processing power could be used much more widely in future computing and electronics."