The human is a remarkable organ that has inspired modern science in many ways. Now, its neuroplasticity ability is being adopted to a novel molecular device that has exceptional computing prowess.
Science Daily reported that the new device could be reconfigured to perform different computational tasks using different voltages. More so, it acts like neurons that can store memories for future retrieval and processing.
Dr. Stanley Williams, a professor at Texas A&M University's Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, said that it was challenging to integrate neuroplasticity in a physical system, but they could create a device with similar reconfigurability by reprogramming its logic.
The von Neumann Bottleneck Dilemma
Sophisticated supercomputers, like ordinary computers, also face the challenge posed by the von Neumann bottleneck. Techopedia defines it as the idea that "computer system throughput is limited due to the relative ability of processors compared to top rates of data transfer." That means a computer's processor becomes idle at some point, but its memory is still being accessed.
The delay in computer processing happens despite extremely fast processor speeds. Scientists have tried turning to the alternative by using conventional electronic parts used for memristors, which offer to circumvent the von Neumann bottleneck. According to Science Daily, niobium dioxide and vanadium dioxide memristors transition from being an insulator to a conductor at a specific temperature, giving them the ability to perform computations and store data.
The only problem is that memristors can operate only in specific temperatures because they are made of rare-Earth elements. This led scientists to look for organic molecules that can function as memristors.
Neuroplasticity in Computing Device
Researchers were able to design a new device that can function like memristors but have organic materials. Dr. Sreebrata Goswami designed the material with a central metal atom of iron bound to three ligands, phenyl azo pyridine organic molecules.
Dr. Sreebrata said that the device behaves like an electron sponge that absorbs as many as six electrons reversibly, which results in seven different redox states, which is the key to the reconfigurability of the device.
Meanwhile, Dr. Sreetosh Goswami devised this project by developing a tiny electrical circuit. When a negative voltage is applied to the device, the organic molecular device could switch back and forth from being an insulator to a conductor at different voltages, unlike memristors.
Sreetosh and Sreebrata investigated the molecular mechanisms that cause this switching behavior by using Raman spectroscopy to look for spectral signatures that explain the behavior. They found that negative voltage triggers the ligands on the molecule to undergo a series of reduction and electron gaining events that make the device transition between on and off states.
Sreetosh said that the switching behavior of the device is comparable to the neuroplasticity of the human brain that it can also reconfigure and change its physical wiring around by giving them different voltage pulses. As VeryWellMind reported, neuroplasticity is the ability of the brain to change and adapt as a result of experience.
Researchers said that their device could be integrated first to handheld devices and other applications where power is limited. Dr. T. Venkatesan, the study co-author, added that their molecular device could pave the way someday to design the next-generation processing chips that have extraordinary computational power and speed but uses less energy.
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