Artificial synapse offers potential for computers that can mimic the brain

Engineering

Scientists have been able to develop an artificial version of the synapse, potentially making it possible to create computer systems that mimic the human brain.

Created by Stanford University and Sandia National Laboratories, the organic electronic device emulates how synapses - the space over which neurons communicate - are able to learn through the signals that cross them.

“Stanford University researchers have developed a new artificial synapse for neural network computing.“

The system is based off a battery design and consists of two thin, flexible films with three terminals connected by an electrolyte of salty water. The device works as a transistor, with one terminal controlling the flow of electricity between the other two.

Mimicking this natural model offers significant energy savings compared to traditional computing, which relies on the processing of information being separate from the act of storing it into memory. By contrast, with synapses, the processing itself creates the memory.

Not only could this lead to the creation of computers that better recreate the way the human brain processes information, but it could also help improve brain-machine technologies.

Study senior author Alberto Salleo, associate professor of materials science and engineering at Stanford University, said: "It's an entirely new family of devices because this type of architecture has not been shown before. For many key metrics, it also performs better than anything that's been done before with inorganics."

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