These engineers have a solution to boost neuromorphic computing: make chips with honey

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It doesn’t happen every day, but from time to time technology leaves behind unexpected fellow travelers. It has just been demonstrated to a thousand wonders by a team from the Washington State University (WSU) and its latest proposal to promote neuromorphic computing, one that somehow emulates the behavior of the animal nervous system. After conducting tests in the laboratory, its researchers have concluded that a promising material for the manufacture of chips that mimic the brain is… Honey. Yes, the same one you use in your desserts.

In an article published in Journal of Physics DProfessor Feng Zhao and Brandon Sueoka demonstrate that honey can be used to make memristors, transistor-like components that serve both to process and store data. In themselves they are small and simple devices, but their functionalities are similar to those of our own neurons. “If we can integrate millions or billions of these honey memristors together, they can become a neuromorphic system that works similar to a human brain,” detail.

Zhao and Sueoka used honey in a solid form and made a connection between two electrodes metal, just as if it were a human synapse. They then tested how effective they were with 100- and 500-nanosecond on-off tests and others that essentially emulate the brain’s learning processes and retention of new information.

Promising… and sustainable

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His conclusion —as stated by the WSU itself in a note— is one of those rare traveling couples, as surprising as they are promising. “Honey could be a sweet spot for developing environmentally friendly components for neuromorphic computers, systems designed to mimic the neurons and synapses of the human brain,” explain from the center.

The nuance that in addition to cash is “ecological” it is not a minor matter. The potential of neuromorphic computing has attracted the interest of large technological multinationals, such as IBM or Intel, which have already manufactured special chips with the equivalent of more than one hundred million “neurons”. The problem is that the change in discipline is not accompanied by a change in materials and they continue to use the same non-renewable or toxic resources that they have been using for years.

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Honey offers a more environmentally friendly alternative to making chips without sacrificing reliability. “It has a very low moisture concentration, so bacteria can’t survive in it. That means these computer chips will be very stable for a long time.” says Professor Zhao, which highlights the potential of the material made by bees. Like other researchers, he is also looking for other biodegradable solutions, such as proteins and sugars that can be found in the leaves of the aloe vera plant.

“When we want to get rid of devices that use computer chips made from honey, we can easily dissolve them in water. Due to these special properties, honey is very useful for creating neuromorphic systems.” renewable and biodegradable“, Zhao points out. Another point in favor of honey memristors is that neuromorphic systems generate less heat than conventional computers, which makes it easier for the material to tolerate their temperature.

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So far Zhao and Sueoka have worked with microscale honey memristors, with sizes similar to human hair. Given the results they have achieved with the first tests, their goal now is to go one step further and develop them at the nanoscale to group billions and give shape to “a complete neuromorphic computing system.” The challenge is not minor.

Computation of this type still has a long way to go. Although the large multinationals have already developed chips with the equivalent of millions of “neurons”, their data is still far from that of the human brain, which exceeds 100,000 million and a billion synapses or connections. Its ability to process and store data is what we now want to emulate. And, surprises left by technology, it seems that bees can be your allies.

Images | Arwin Neil Baichoo (Unsplash)

It doesn’t happen every day, but from time to time technology leaves behind unexpected fellow travelers. It has just been…

It doesn’t happen every day, but from time to time technology leaves behind unexpected fellow travelers. It has just been…

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