The computers that are used in high-tech research labs and military applications are in the high end zone. But, the technology is still limited to the extent that they could not reduce the size of such computers with the increasing speed. These computers may be able to perform multiple operations and carry out several instructions at the same time, but they are not portable. Besides, no one has ever been able to develop a computer that resembles the biological systems of a brain.
Lately, a device that is more energy efficient than any other processor used now, and that too with the capability of processing multiple instructions at the same time, has been developed. The details and study was explained in the latest edition of the journal called “Advanced Materials”. The article explains about a device that uses phase changed materials for the multiple and simultaneous processing and storage of information. All the team work and effort for this device was given by researchers at the University of Exeter.
All conventional computers present now have a separate processor and memory. Thus, when a data is to be processed, it has to be identified from its memory, selected, taken to the processor, processed and then sent back to the same memory address. Since multiple data processing happens in a very small time, a huge time loss occurs. When the same processing mechanism occurs inside a human brain, the whole case becomes different. The brain is equipped to process and store the information and the same place. Thus, the time required to search for the information, retrieve it, and send it back after processing is saved. In order to design a device with the same characteristics, the researchers used a material that would resemble the properties explained above called phase changed materials.
Phase change materials are able to process and store the information at the same place and also at the same time. The material was first experimented with basic processing methods like addition, subtraction and so on. To their surprise, they found out that the material was able to reproduce artificial neurons and synapses. Thus, an artificial system that is made only from phase-change devices could potentially learn and process information in a similar way to our own brains.
The figure shown below represents a graphic prototype of a biologically similar, extremely efficient, fast ‘brain-like’ computing system.
Professor David Wright, a professor at the University of Exeter, who leaded the research process, said that their invention has major implications for the development of extreme forms of computing, including ‘brain-like’ computers. They have also tried to develop a new form of ‘brain-like’ computer system that can be used to learn, adapt and change over time. Such an invention will have a huge scope in the market as the size of such devices will be a way smaller than the conventional computers with similar speeds.
The study of this technology, being in its initial stage, the whole focus was given on a single phase change cell. Since the results were way better than they expected, they have started expanding their research on the building systems of interconnected cells. They are trying to experiment with small processes like identifying an object among many, and so on.
The project and its funding was supported by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.
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