Scientists at Radboud University have built an atomic structure that changes the links between atoms just as the brain changes the synapses between neurons
The computational power of new computers is reaching levels hardly imaginable just a few years ago. However, researchers are already studying what could be the future generation of supercomputers, the so-called quantum computers. The technology on which they are based is extremely complex and delicate. Today the goal seems a little closer thanks to the results obtained at Radboud University in Nijmegen, the Netherlands. The results were published in the authoritative scientific journal Nature Nanotechnology.
The scientists, from the Institute for Molecules and Materials and the Donders Institute for Neuroscience, have developed an intelligent material that learns through physical modifications. The atoms within the material in fact change the structure and interconnections between them mimicking the characteristics of neurons and synapses in the brain. This very special feature may give rise to a completely new generation of computers. Mobility is achieved by embedding cobalt atoms in a black phosphorus structure.
The research began in 2018 when researchers demonstrated for the first time that it is possible to store information in the state of a single cobalt atom. By applying a voltage to the atom, they were able to induce a state change between a value of 0 and 1, like a neuron. Then the technology was developed to create defined structures of atoms. The main surprise, however, was the ability to be able to vary the connections between atoms as the electrical inputo changed. By applying long voltages, the synapses changed and the material adapted accordingly, mimicking the characteristics of biological synapses. The next step is to build a larger system to fully discover the secrets of this quantum brain. Obtaining such a machine could lead to the construction of computers that learn by themselves, smaller and more efficient than the current ones.
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