VANCOUVER, Wash – Honey could be a great solution for developing eco-friendly components for polymorphic neurocomputers, systems designed to mimic neurons and synapses present in the human brain.
Hailed by some as the future of computing, structured neural systems are much faster and use much less power than traditional computers. Washington State University engineers have demonstrated a way to make them more organic. In a study published in the Journal of Physics D, researchers show that honey can be used to create a memristor, a transistor-like component that can not only process but also stores data in memory.
“This is a very small device with a simple structure, but it has very similar functions,” said Feng Zhao, an associate professor at WSU’s School of Engineering and Computer Science and the study’s author. with human neurons. can integrate millions or billions of these honey mnemonic characters together, then they can be made into a structural nervous system that behaves like the human brain.”
For the study, Zhao and first author Brandon Sueoka, a WSU graduate student in Zhao’s lab, created memristors by treating honey to a solid form and sandwiching it between two metal electrodes. , creating a structure similar to that of a human synapse. They then tested honey’s ability to mimic the activity of synapses with high on and off rates of 100 and 500 nanoseconds, respectively. The memristors also simulate synaptic functions known as spike time-dependent plasticity and spike rate-dependent plasticity, which are responsible for learning processes in the human brain and storage hold new information in neurons.
WSU engineers have created mnemonic honeys on a microscopic scale, so they are about the size of a human hair. The team led by Zhao plans to grow them on the nanoscale, about 1/1000th of a human hair, and combine many millions or even billions together to form a complete polymorphic neural computing system. correction.
Currently, conventional computer systems are based on the von Neumann architecture. Named after its creator, this architecture consists of an input, usually from a keyboard and mouse, and an output, such as a monitor. It also has a CPU or central processing unit and RAM or storage memory. Passing data through all these mechanisms from input to processing to memory to output takes a lot of energy compared to the human brain, Zhao said. For example, the Fugaku supercomputer uses up to 28 megawatts, or roughly 28 million watts, to run while the brain only uses about 10 to 20 watts.
The human brain has over 100 billion neurons with over 1,000 trillion synapses, or connections, among them. Every neuron is able to process and store data, which makes the brain much more efficient than a traditional computer, and the developers of neural computing systems aim to capture it. mimic that structure.
Several companies, including Intel and IBM, have released polymorphic neural chips that have the equivalent of more than 100 million “neurons” per chip, but this number is still nowhere near the number in the brain. Many developers are still using the same non-renewable and toxic materials currently used in conventional computer chips.
Many researchers, including Zhao’s team, are looking for biodegradable and renewable solutions for use in this promising new type of computer. Zhao is also leading investigations into using proteins and other sugars such as those found in aloe vera leaves with this ability, but he sees strong potential in honey.
“Honey doesn’t spoil,” he said. “It has a very low moisture content, so bacteria cannot survive in it. This means that these computer chips will be very stable and reliable for a very long time. “
The honey memory chips developed at WSU should withstand the lower heat generated by the nervous systems without getting hot like traditional computers. The honey memristor will also cut down on e-waste.
“When we want to throw away devices that use computer chips made from honey, we can easily dissolve them in water,” he said. “Due to these special properties, honey is useful for creating renewable and biodegradable biological nervous systems.”
This also means that, like regular computers, users still have to avoid spilling coffee on the machine, Zhao warns.
This research was supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation.