Sustainable, biodegradable and extremely fast computing, researchers at Washington State University (WSU) believe they have found the key to making computing greener with…honey.
This sweet paste could become a solution for developing environmentally friendly components for neuromorphic computers.
Neuromorphic computers are systems designed to mimic the functioning of neurons and synapses in the human brain and neuromorphic computing is sometimes seen as the future of technology because the human brain can still process, analyze and adapt to this that it sees in a way that a computer cannot (yet) do. This is how neuromorphic computing is supposed to serve as a bridge between the human brain and technology. It does this by enabling autonomous systems to simulate behavior similar to human cognition.
Moreover, these systems are supposed to be much faster and less power-hungry than the best computers currently available. And it looks like honey could help make these futuristic devices much kinder to the environment, and therefore, our planet.
A new discovery based on honey
From honey, WSU engineers have created a functional memristor, a component similar to a transistor, which, in addition to processing data, can also store it in its memory. Feng Zhao, an associate professor at Washington State University’s School of Engineering and Computer Science, co-authored the study alongside graduate student Brandon Sueoka. In the results published in an issue of the Journal of Physics D: Applied Physics, Feng Zhao explains that he compared the memristor made from honey to a human neuron. This allowed him to claim that it had very similar functionalities while maintaining a very small, very practical size.
Advantages: Microdevices the size of a hair, biodegradable…
Like the human brain, the device is able to process and store data in memory. Memristors will be developed at the nanometric scale. They will measure approximately the width of a human hair.
In the future, they plan to reduce its size so that millions, if not billions, of memristors are used to build a complete, functional and efficient neuromorphic computing system. And these memristors are entirely biodegradable since they are soluble in water.
At the moment, several companies, such as Intel and IBM, have already brought neuromorphic chips to market. But these count the equivalent of more than 100 million “neurons” per chip, a number still far from that of the brain. By way of comparison, the human brain has more than 100 billion neurons, or more than 1,000 trillion synapses. Additionally, many developers use non-renewable and toxic materials. The same as those currently used in conventional computer chips.
Another advantage: honey memristor chips should tolerate low levels of heat generated by neuromorphic systems; they do not heat up as much as traditional computers and will also reduce electronic waste.