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Computers That Mimic the Function of the Brain

Artist's representation of a 'brain chip.'

Researchers at Northwestern University have developed a new type of memristor technology that could bring brain-like computing closer to reality.

Credit: Nikolai Sorokin/Fotolia

Northwestern University researchers have developed a new type of memristor technology that can remember how much current has flowed through it, which they say could bring brain-like computing closer to reality.

The researchers note advanced memristors could provide memory that is both fast and reliable. However, existing memristors are two-terminal electronic devices, which means they can only control one voltage channel. The Northwestern researchers wanted to transform a memristor into a three-terminal device, enabling it to be used in more complex electronic circuits and systems.

"Computers are very impressive in many ways, but they're not equal to the mind," says Northwestern professor Mark Hersam. "Neurons can achieve very complicated computation with very low power consumption compared to a digital computer."

The researchers built their memristor by using single-layer molybdenum disulfide (MoS2), an atomically thin, two-dimensional nanomaterial semiconductor. They used a sheet of MoS2 that has a well-defined grain boundary, which is the interface where two different grains come together.

"With a memristor that can be tuned with a third electrode, we have the possibility to realize a function you could not previously achieve," Hersam says. "A three-terminal memristor has been proposed as a means of realizing brain-like computing. We are now actively exploring this possibility in the laboratory."

From Northwestern University Newscenter
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