'Brain-on-a-chip' contains tens of thousands of memristors

June 10, 2020 //By Julien Happich
Researchers from MIT have engineered tens of thousands of artificial brain synapses on a silicon chip a few square millimeters in size.

The researchers borrowed from principles of metallurgy to fabricate each memristor from alloys of silver and copper, along with silicon. When they ran the chip through several visual tasks, the chip was able to "remember" stored images and reproduce them many times over, in versions that were crisper and cleaner compared with existing memristor designs made with unalloyed elements. Their results, published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology under the title "Alloying conducting channels for reliable neuromorphic computing", demonstrate a promising new memristor design for neuromorphic devices.

"So far, artificial synapse networks exist as software. We're trying to build real neural network hardware for portable artificial intelligence systems," says Jeehwan Kim, associate professor of mechanical engineering at MIT. "Imagine connecting a neuromorphic device to a camera on your car, and having it recognize lights and objects and make a decision immediately, without having to connect to the internet. We hope to use energy-efficient memristors to do those tasks on-site, in real-time."

While a transistor in a conventional circuit transmits information by switching between one of only two values, 0 and 1, a memristor could work along a gradient, much like a synapse in the brain. The signal it produces could vary depending on the strength of the signal that it receives. This would enable a single memristor to have many values, and therefore carry out a far wider range of operations than binary transistors.

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