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02 February 2010 Mil-Tech

Scientists using nanotechnology to build computers modeled after the brain

Scientists are aiming to create computer systems that can simulate and emulate the brain’s abilities
Scientists are aiming to create computer systems that can simulate and emulate the brain’s abilities.
Image Credit: Mil-Tech.

Scientists have great expectations that nanotechnologies will bring them closer to the goal of creating computer systems that can simulate and emulate the brain’s abilities for sensation, perception, action, interaction and cognition while rivaling its low power consumption and compact size.

DARPA for instance, the U.S. military’s research outfit known for projects that are pushing the envelope on what is technologically possible, has a program called SyNAPSE that is trying to develop electronic neuromorphic machine technology that scales to biological levels.

Started in late 2008 and funded with $4.9 million, the goal of the initial phase of the SyNAPSE project is to “develop nanometer scale electronic synaptic components capable of adapting the connection strength between two neurons in a manner analogous to that seen in biological systems, as well as, simulate the utility of these synaptic components in core microcircuits that support the overall system architecture.”

Independent from this military-inspired research, nanotechnology researchers in France have developed a hybrid nanoparticle-organic transistor that can mimic the main functionalities of a synapse. This organic transistor, based on pentacene and gold nanoparticles and termed NOMFET (Nanoparticle Organic Memory Field-Effect Transistor), has opened the way to new generations of neuro-inspired computers, capable of responding in a manner similar to the nervous system.

“Basically, we have demonstrated that electric charges flowing through a mixture of an organic semiconductor and metallic nanoparticles can behave the same way as neurotransmitters through a synaptic connection in the brain,” Dominique Vuillaume, a research director at CNRS and head of the Molecular Nanostructures & Devices group at the Institute for Electronics Microelectronics and Nanotechnology (IEMN) tells Nanowerk.

In the development of tomorrow’s computing systems, one approach consists in mimicking the way biological systems such as neuron networks operate to produce electronic circuits with new features. In the nervous system, a synapse is the junction between two neurons, enabling the transmission of electric messages from one neuron to another and the adaptation of the message as a function of the nature of the incoming signal.

Source: Mil-Tech /...

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