Neuromorphic computing: New research could lead to more energy-efficient computing

ScienceDaily | 10/3/2018 | Staff (Posted by) Level 3
Devices like drones depend on a constant WiFi signal -- if the WiFi stops, the drone crashes. Louis Piper, associate professor of physics and director of materials science and engineering at Binghamton University, wants to make more energy-efficient computers, so things like drones could be responsive to their environment without worrying about a WiFi signal linking it to a larger computer machine.

"You could put 5G and 6G everywhere and assume that you have a reliable internet connection all the time, or you could address the problem with hardware processing, which is what we're doing," said Piper. "The idea is we want to have these chips that can do all the functioning in the chip, rather than messages back and forth with some sort of large server. It should be more efficient that way."

Scientists - Neuristor - Circuits - Neurons - Brain

Scientists have developed "neuristor" circuits that behave similarly to biological neurons in the human brain, which can perform complex computations using an incredibly small amount of power. More recently, a vital component of this neuristor circuit was created using niobium dioxide (NbO2), which replicates the switching behavior observed in ion channels within biological neurons. These NbO2 devices are created by applying a large voltage across a non-conductive niobium pentoxide (Nb2O5) film, causing the formation of conductive NbO2 filaments which are responsible for the important switching behavior. Unfortunately, this high-voltage and time-consuming post-fabrication process makes it near impossible to create the dense circuits needed for complex computer processors. In addition, these NbO2 devices require an additional companion capacitor to function properly within the neuristor circuit, making them more complex and unwieldy to implement.

"One of the main problems we have with trying to make these systems is the fact that you have to do this electroforming step," said Piper. "Like with Frankenstein's monster, you basically pulse a large amount of...
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