Brain-inspired electronic system could vastly reduce AI’s carbon footprint

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A wafer filled with memristors.

Extremely energy-efficient artificial intelligence is now closer to reality after a study by UCL researchers found a way to improve the accuracy of a brain-inspired computing system.

The system, which uses memristors to create artificial neural networks, is at least 1,000 times more energy efficient than conventional transistor-based AI hardware, but has until now been more prone to error.

Existing AI is extremely energy-intensive—training one AI model can generate 284 tons of carbon dioxide, equivalent to the lifetime emissions of five cars. Replacing the transistors that make up all digital devices with memristors, a novel electronic device first built in 2008, could reduce this to a fraction of a ton of carbon dioxide—equivalent to emissions generated in an afternoon’s drive.

Since memristors are so much more energy-efficient than existing computing systems, they can potentially pack huge amounts of computing power into hand-held devices, removing the need to be connected to the Internet.

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