Engineers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology created a “brain on a chip,” which consists of tens of thousands of artificial synapses called memristors. This was reported in an article published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.
Memristors made of silicon, as well as an alloy of silver and copper. The created chip is able to memorize visual information and reproduce it more accurately compared to existing memristor designs made of unalloyed components. This will improve neuromorphic devices, which are a form of electronics that processes information like the human brain. Such schemes can be built into portable devices and perform complex tasks, feasible so far only for supercomputers.
In a neuromorphic device, the memristor performs the function of a transistor designed to convert signals, but the principles of its operation resemble the work of an interneuron connection or synapse. A transistor can transmit information by switching between two values (0 and 1) depending on the strength of the incoming signal (in the form of an electric current), while the memristor is able to accept many different states, performing a much wider range of operations.
One memristor consists of an anode and a cathode, separated by a medium. When voltage is applied to one electrode, the ions begin to flow through the medium to another electrode, forming a conduction channel. Existing memristors work well if the voltage provokes a strong flow of electrons. However, in the new microcircuit, specialists used copper as an alloying element that stabilizes the flow of ions through the channel.
Researchers managed to reproduce the shield images of Captain America’s Marvel comic book character, with each pixel being associated with a specific memristor in the chip. This allowed the “brain on the crystal” to remember the picture and accurately reproduce the image several times.