An image of the brain-inspired material
A breakthrough discovery at University of Limerick has revealed for the first time that unconventional brain-like computing at the tiniest scale of atoms and molecules is possible.
Researchers at University of Limerick’s Bernal Institute worked with an international team of scientists to create a new type of organic material that learns from its past behaviour.
The discovery of the ‘dynamic molecular switch’ that emulate synaptic behaviour is revealed in a new study in the prestigious international journal Nature Materials.
The study was led by Damien Thompson, Professor of Molecular Modelling in UL’s Department of Physics and Director of SSPC, the UL-hosted Science Foundation Ireland Research Centre for Pharmaceuticals, together with Christian Nijhuis at the Centre for Molecules and Brain-Inspired Nano Systems in University of Twente and Enrique del Barco from University of Central Florida.
Working during lockdowns, the team developed a two-nanometre thick layer of molecules, which is 50,000 times thinner than a strand of hair and remembers its history as electrons pass through it.
Professor Thompson explained that the “switching probability and the values of the on/off states continually change in the molecular material, which provides a disruptive new alternative to conventional silicon-based digital switches that can only ever be either on or off”.
The newly discovered dynamic organic switch displays all the mathematical logic functions necessary for deep learning, successfully emulating Pavlovian ‘call and response’ synaptic brain-like behaviour.
The researchers demonstrated the new materials properties using extensive experimental characterisation and electrical measurements supported by multi-scale modelling spanning from predictive modelling of the molecular structures at the quantum level to analytical mathematical modelling of the electrical data.
To emulate the dynamical behaviour of synapses at the molecular level, the researchers combined fast electron transfer (akin to action potentials and fast depolarization processes in biology) with slow proton coupling limited by diffusion (akin to the role of biological calcium ions or neurotransmitters).
Since the electron transfer and proton coupling steps inside the material occur at very different time scales, the transformation can emulate the plastic behaviour of synapse neuronal junctions, Pavlovian learning, and all logic gates for digital circuits, simply by changing the applied voltage and the duration of voltage pulses during the synthesis, they explained.
“This was a great lockdown project, with Chris, Enrique and I pushing each other through zoom meetings and gargantuan email threads to bring our teams combined skills in materials modelling, synthesis and characterisation to the point where we could demonstrate these new brain-like computing properties,” explained Professor Thompson.
“The community has long known that silicon technology works completely differently to how our brains work and so we used new types of electronic materials based on soft molecules to emulate brain-like computing networks.”
The researchers explained that the method can in the future be applied to dynamic molecular systems driven by other stimuli such as light and coupled to different types of dynamic covalent bond formation.
This breakthrough opens up a whole new range of adaptive and reconfigurable systems, creating new opportunities in sustainable and green chemistry, from more efficient flow chemistry production of drug products and other value-added chemicals to development of new organic materials for high density computing and memory storage in big data centres.
“This is just the start. We are already busy expanding this next generation of intelligent molecular materials, which is enabling development of sustainable alternative technologies to tackle grand challenges in energy, environment, and health,” explained Professor Thompson.
Professor Norelee Kennedy, Vice President Research at UL, said: “Our researchers are continuously finding new ways of making more effective, more sustainable materials. This latest finding is very exciting, demonstrating the reach and ambition of our international collaborations and showcasing our world-leading ability at UL to encode useful properties into organic materials.”
The Latest Updates from Bing News
Go deeper with Bing News on:
- Brain implants could restore paralysed patients' arm movements
The patient is still in the training phase, teaching his brain implant to recognise the different desired movements.
- The Next Frontier: Brain-Computer Interfaces and Brain-to-Brain Communication
In the realm of technological innovation, the human mind has always been an intriguing frontier. Over the years, we have witnessed remarkable advancements in technology that have brought us closer to ...
- New wireless brain implants could bring mind control to new level: study
You might soon be able to control your electronic devices using only your mind. A recent study published in the journal Nature Electronics shows that scientists are one step closer to an invention ...
- The Evolution of Brain-Computer Interfaces: Pioneering the Future of Human-Computer Interaction
In the ever-advancing realm of technology, Brain-Computer Interfaces (BCIs) have emerged as a groundbreaking innovation, bridging the gap between the human mind and the digital world. BCIs are ...
- Brain implants may get a broadband boost with new approach
Researchers have proposed employing wireless neural implants to execute communication between the human brain and computers.
Go deeper with Bing News on:
Intelligent molecular materials
- Scientists develop simple test to help us find alien life
Scientists have developed a simple test in the search for alien life, they claim. The breakthrough helps the search for the “holy grail” of astrobiology: a reliable test that will determine whether ...
- Breaking Through the Secrets of Memory Storage
Similar to a swift transformation, short-term plasticity occurs within the blink of an eye, unfolding in milliseconds to mere minutes. It serves as the ideal mechanism for temporary storage, allowing ...
- QIAGEN extends AI capabilities of its NGS interpretation software QCI Interpret to enable clinical exome completeness
Venlo, the Netherlands, and Redwood City, California, Sept. 28, 2023 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- QIAGEN (NYSE: QGEN; Frankfurt Prime Standard: QIA) ...
- Implant device developed by Houston researchers aims to cure cancer within 60 days
HAMMR is an implanted device that serves as both a cancer-detection system and a drug-administration system. HOUSTON — Rice University is leading a team that recently earned a $45 million federal ...
- Is there life on Mars? Scientists believe AI could help unlock the Red Planet’s secrets
Scientists say their new method could be “revolutionary” in determining whether samples contain evidence of extraterrestrial life. View on euronews ...