First Transistor That Mimics Brain Synapse
French researchers have created what they claim is the first transistor to mimic the connections in the human brain. It could lead to neurology-inspired computers, as well as provide a means for connecting artificial devices to existing biological tissue.
Schematic diagram illustrating how the NOMFET (bottom)
mimics a synapse (top). In a synapse, voltage spikes
(blue triangles) are converted to a chemical signal (orange arrow),
which flows across a gap. Once across, the chemical stimulates
the creation of new voltage spikes.
(Courtesy: Dominique Vuillaume))
The team, which includes scientists from the CNRS (the French National Science Agency) and CEA (the French Atomic Energy Commission), began by adding gold nanoparticles to the interface between an insulating layer (gate dielectric) and an organic transistor made of pentacene. They fixed the nanoparticles, which were 5, 10 and 20 nm in diameter, into the source-drain channel of the device using surface chemistry techniques and finished the structure by covering it with a 35 nm thick film of pentacene. The resulting device is called a nanoparticle organic memory field-effect transistor or "NOMFET".
A biological synapse transforms a voltage spike (action potential) arriving from a pre-synaptic neuron into a discharge of chemical neurotransmitters that are then detected by a post-synaptic neuron. These are subsequently transformed into new spikes, leading to a succession of pulses that either become larger or diminish in size. This fundamental property of synaptic behaviour is known as short-term plasticity, which is related to a neural network's ability to learn. It is this plasticity that Vuillaume and colleagues have succeeded in mimicking.
In the NOMFET, the pre-synaptic signal is simply the pulse voltage applied to the device and the output signal is the drain current, explains Vuillaume. The holes – the charge carriers in the p-type organic semiconductor employed – are trapped in the nanoparticles and act like the neurotransmitters. A certain number of holes are trapped for each incoming spike voltage and in the absence of pulses, the holes escape in a matter of seconds
This time delay is carefully adjusted by the researchers by optimizing nanoparticle number and device geometry. "The output of the NOMFET is thus able to reproduce the deceasing or amplifying behaviour typical of a synapse depending on the frequency of spikes," said Vuillaume.
Science fiction fans recall that Isaac Asimov, in his short story Reason, wrote about a similar idea:
All that had been done in the mid 20th century on "calculating machines" had been upset by Robertson and his positronic brain paths. The miles of relays and photocells had given way to the spongy globe of platinum iridium about the size of the human brain.
(Read more about the positronic brain)
A few years later, Philip K. Dick had fun with the idea of a Nexus-6 brain unit in his 1968 novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep:
The Nexus-6 did have two trillion constituents plus a choice within a range of ten million possible combinations of cerebral activity. In .45 of a second an android equipped with such a brain could assume any one of fourteen basic reaction-postures. Well, no intelligence test could trap such an andy. But then, intelligence tests hadn't trapped an andy in years, not since the primordial, crude varieties of the 1970's.
From Physics World via Next Big Future.
Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 2/1/2010)
Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.
| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |
you like to contribute a story tip?
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add
Comment/Join discussion ( 1 )
Related News Stories -
Kelly Clarkson Show Like Black Mirror '15 Million Merits'
'These people are pieces of software called avatars.' Neal Stephenson, 1992.
Neuralink Will Land A Chip In Your Brain
'What are you talking about? Do you mean a neural lace?' - Iain M. Banks, 2010.
100 Terabyte Exadrive SSD Also Has Biggest Price
'A man could carry AIs or complete planetary dataspheres in a Schrön loop.' - Dan Simmons, 1989.
Google Now Expects Chips To Design Themselves
'What lay down there? Energy, tubes and pipes, wiring, transformers, self-contained machinery...' - Philip K. Dick, 1960.
Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!)
is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for
the Invention Category that interests
you, the Glossary, the Invention
Timeline, or see what's New.
Tesla Will Have Metal Gear Snake Autocoupler, Musk Confirms
'Its motion was so swift, complex, and perfect that at first I did not see it as a machine, in spite of its metallic glitter.'
Starlink Satellites Leading Edge On-Orbit Debris Mitigation
Propulsion-assisted orbital decay, brought to you by SpaceX.
Healight Ultraviolet Endotracheal Device Has Covid-19 Treatment Potential
'He applied the tip of the instrument to the interior of the wound...'
Parents Use AI To See One Last Message From Their Deceased Son
'...what's to keep me from showing face, Man?'
Satoshi Tomizu Creates Pocket Universes And Worldcraft Bubbles In Glass
'The Worldcraft bubble glittered, catching the light...'
Space Hero Inc. Offers Trip To ISS As Reality Show Prize
'This is Elmer Schmitz, presenting to you the finalists in our Aviation Quiz Program...'
I Love Ceiling-Mounted Robots
'Immediately an enormous apparatus fell on to her out of the ceiling...'
Armano Remote Control Excavator
'The bulldozer moved through the... mine... '
OK, NASA 3D Printer Of Food Not Yet Star Trek Food Synthesizer
Maybe not, but we're seeing definite progress.
Kelly Clarkson Show Like Black Mirror '15 Million Merits'
'These people are pieces of software called avatars.'
Salto Jumping Robot Now Sticks Landing!
'Lucky touched the leap knob and the hopper's leg retracted.'
Gyroscopic Median-Straddling Mass Transit Vehicles
'It was among these leviathans that the little gyrocar was daring to thrust its puny self...'
Bigrating Laser Beam-Riding Light Sail Is Self-Correcting
'That sail will be twenty thousand miles at the wide part.'
ISS Astronauts Test Estee Lauder 'Advanced Night Repair' Skin Serum
'Out in the New Moon, just ask for what you want...'
LG Wing Twisting Smartphone Might Be Fun
'A polycarbon screen unfurled...'
Mushroom Coffin Returns You To Nature, Naturally
'She touched the leaf. She was wanted.'
More SF in the News Stories
More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories