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Strongly Interacting Electrons in Wacky Oxide Synchronize to Compute Like the Brain

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An oscillating switch, the basis of a new type of low-power analog computing.

A new device developed by electrical engineers at Pennsylvania State University demonstrates a new type of computing architecture.

Credit: Nikhil Shukla/Penn State

A device developed by Pennsylvania State University electrical engineers could serve as the foundation for non-Boolean computing. The new type of computing architecture that stores information in the frequencies and phases of periodic signals could work like the human brain to perform computing functions.

The device uses a thin film of vanadium oxide on a titanium dioxide substrate to create an oscillating switch, and the team says they used a standard electrical engineering trick to add a series resistors to stabilize oscillations over billions of cycles. When a second similar oscillating system was added, they discovered that over time, the two devices would begin to oscillate in unison. The coupled system is a small-world network as is the brain, with its closely clustered nodes that evolved for more efficient information processing.

The novel device uses only about 1 percent of the energy of digital computing, allowing for new ways to design computers.

The researchers note it will likely take at least seven years to scale up from the current network of two to three coupled oscillators to the 100 million or so densely packed oscillators needed to make a neuromorphic computer chip.

From Penn State Live
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