Researchers make a pivotal discovery for the future of brain-like computing by using an ‘iontronic memristor’

Scientists from the Netherlands and South Korea claim that they have made a big leap towards artificially copying the human brain by creating a device known as the “iontronic memristor.”

According to the researchers, this tiny device — hardly larger than a human hair follicle — functions as an artificial synapse. This allows the device to mimic the brain’s unique ability to process and ultimately share information, according to the Debrief.

The researchers wrote the following:

The brain’s computing principles (neurons connected by synapses) and information carriers (ions in water) both differ fundamentally from those of conventional computers.

Building on this distinction, we present an aqueous memristor that emulates the brain’s short-term synaptic plasticity features through ion transport in water, mirroring the natural processes in the brain.

In describing their findings that were recently published in the “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,” researchers suggested that the iontronic memristor is a pivotal departure from earlier models that aimed to do something similar.

“We are effectively replicating neuronal behavior using a system that employs the same medium as the brain.”

The device reportedly copies the unique processes of human synapses, using only salt and water to closely emulate how neurons share information naturally, per the report.

If true, the recent findings represent a major advance in neuromorphic computing, which aims to recreate the efficiency of the human brain. The brain is an immensely efficient organ, able to perform complex computational tasks while using very little energy.

As a result, scientists have been motivated to try and replicate the brain’s efficiency and “develop neuromorphic systems that could revolutionize computing by significantly reducing power consumption and enhancing performance in tasks involving pattern recognition, learning, and real-time decision-making,” per the Debrief.

Tim Kamsma, a PhD candidate at Utrecht University and lead study author, said, “While artificial synapses capable of processing complex information already exist based on solid materials, we now show for the first time that this feat can also be accomplished using water and salt.”

“We are effectively replicating neuronal behavior using a system that employs the same medium as the brain.”

The envisioned outcome is that computers might one day be as efficient as the human brain, but the endeavor remains speculative. Nevertheless, the recent development represents a substantial step forward in making that possibility a reality.

“It represents a crucial advancement toward computers not only capable of mimicking the communication patterns of the human brain but also utilizing the same medium,” Kamsma said.

“Perhaps this will ultimately pave the way for computing systems that replicate the extraordinary capabilities of the human brain more faithfully.”

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