Engineers put tens of thousands of artificial brain synapses on a single chip

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A new MIT-fabricated “brain-on-a-chip” reprocessed an image of MIT’s Killian Court, including sharpening and blurring the image, more reliably than existing neuromorphic designs.

MIT engineers have designed a “brain-on-a-chip,” smaller than a piece of confetti, that is made from tens of thousands of artificial brain synapses known as memristors—silicon-based components that mimic the information-transmitting synapses in the human brain.

The researchers borrowed from principles of metallurgy to fabricate each memristor from alloys of silver and copper, along with silicon. When they ran the chip through several visual tasks, the chip was able to “remember” stored images and reproduce them many times over, in versions that were crisper and cleaner compared with existing memristor designs made with unalloyed elements.

Their results, published today in the journal Nature Nanotechnology, demonstrate a promising new memristor design for neuromorphic devices—electronics that are based on a new type of circuit that processes information in a way that mimics the brain’s neural architecture. Such brain-inspired circuits could be built into small, portable devices, and would carry out complex computational tasks that only today’s supercomputers can handle.

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First programmable memristor computer aims to bring AI processing down from the cloud

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First programmable memristor computer aims to bring AI processing down from the cloud

The memristor array chip plugs into the custom computer chip, forming the first programmable memristor computer. The team demonstrated that it could run three standard types of machine learning algorithms. Credit: Robert Coelius, Michigan Engineering

The first programmable memristor computer—not just a memristor array operated through an external computer—has been developed at the University of Michigan.

It could lead to the processing of artificial intelligence directly on small, energy-constrained devices such as smartphones and sensors. A smartphone AI processor would mean that voice commands would no longer have to be sent to the cloud for interpretation, speeding up response time.

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Memristors Could Revolutionize the Memory Chip

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A memristor close-up

Hewlett-Packard scientists on Thursday are to report advances in the design of a new class of diminutive switches capable of replacing transistors as computer chips shrink closer to the atomic scale.  The devices, known as memristors, or memory resistors, were conceived in 1971 by Leon O. Chua, an electrical engineer at the University of California, Berkeley, but they were not put into effect until 2008 at the H.P. lab here.

 

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