What happened now? Researchers at Washington State University have developed a prototype memristor made from a rather unique material: honey. To create the sweet scheme, the researchers solidified honey and squeezed it between two metal electrodes. The resulting structure roughly mimics the synapse, the part of the brain that connects neurons and allows them to communicate with each other.
The human brain is made up of over 100 billion neurons with over 1,000 trillion synapses. Each neuron is capable of both processing and storing data, making them much more efficient than the architecture of traditional computers.
The proof-of-concept memristor was built on a microscale and is about the size of a human hair.
Lead researcher Feng Zhao tested the switching speed of honey memristors and found them to be comparable to human synapses (100 ns on and 500 ns off). They were also able to emulate features called burst time-dependent plasticity and burst frequency-dependent plasticity that aid in learning and retaining new information.
Honey was chosen in part because of its biodegradable and renewable nature. “Honey does not spoil” Zhao said. “It has a very low moisture concentration, so bacteria cannot survive in it. This means that these computer chips will be very stable and reliable for a very long time.”
Zhao is also studying the viability of proteins and other sugars, such as those found in aloe vera leaves, for similar purposes.
Future iterations will be developed at the nanoscale, or about 1/1000 the size of a human hair. By pooling millions or even billions together, researchers eventually hope to build a fully functional neuromorphic computing system.
Their work has been published in Journal of Physics D: Applied Physics.
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