This research demonstrates a prototype of a memristor made from an unusual material – honey!
The memristor is the most crucial component in Neuromorphic Computing – It is literally a neuron realised on hardware. Now, researchers at Washington State University have created a proof-of-concept device that uses honey to build a memristor! The researchers anticipate that their findings lay the foundation for biodegradable, long-lasting, organic-based computing systems that are much more efficient than traditional computing designs.
Almost all modern computers we use today are based on the Von Neumann architecture, a design first introduced in the late 1940s. There, the processor is responsible for executing instructions and programs, while the memory stores those instructions and programs. When you think of your body as an embedded device, your brain is the processor as well as the memory. The architecture of our brain is such that there is no distinction between the two. Neuromorphic computing tries to mimic our brain with the help of memristors, which try to mimic our neurons.
The researchers created the device by turning real, bee-sourced honey into a solid form that was held between two metal electrodes. This design resembles synapses in the brain and how they are kept between pairs of neurons. The device was then put to the test, and it passed with flying colours, switching on and off at speeds between 100 and 500 nanoseconds, much like its biological counterparts.
“This is a very small device with a simple structure, but it has very similar functionalities to a human neuron,” said Feng Zhao, associate professor of WSU’s School of Engineering and Computer Science, in the announcement. “This means if we can integrate millions or billions of these honey memristors together, then they can be made into a neuromorphic system that functions much like a human brain.”
While the researchers looked at a variety of organic materials, including proteins, carbohydrates, and other organic substances, honey stood out as the most viable choice for the memristor design. “Honey does not spoil,” Zhao said. “It has a very low moisture concentration, so bacteria cannot survive in it. This means these computer chips will be very stable and reliable for a very long time.”
Another essential feature of future honey-based neuromorphic systems is their high biodegradability, which would aid in reducing the amount of electronic trash generated by outmoded or malfunctioning silicon-based devices. “When we want to dispose of devices using computer chips made of honey, we can easily dissolve them in water,” Zhao continued. “Because of these special properties, honey is very useful for creating renewable and biodegradable neuromorphic systems.”
However, there is still more work to be done on the honey-based memristor technique. Miniaturization of the CPU element is one of the next research aims. The entire study is available here.