Let’s talk about neuromorphic computing. Whereas traditional computers have processors and memory as discrete components, neuromorphic computing attempts to emulate the brain in that each functional element—each synapse—is both processor and memory. This radically-different approach to computing requires new hardware for good performance, but it can provide incredible improvements in performance and efficiency for certain types of AI applications.
What is novel is making memristors out of organic material. That’s exactly what some researchers from Washington State University have done. The specific medium that they have chosen is honey, owing to its relative stability (thanks to a lack of moisture, the same quality that makes it resistant to spoiling).
Using a thin sheet of honey between two metal electrodes, the researchers were able to create functional memristors. Moreover, the fabricated memristors demonstrated several properties that are useful for neuromorphic computing, including “spike-timing dependent plasticity” and “spike-rate dependent plasticity.”
Ultimately, however, these honey memristors are currently just a proof of concept. The ones created in the experiment exist on the micro-scale, while Intel and other companies are already fabricating synapses at the nano-scale. Even the densest neuromorphic processors, such as Intel’s Loihi 2, are still on the order of millions of neurons, while emulating the brain will take tens of billions of neurons.
The researchers say that they intend to pursue continued miniaturization, but emphasize that the primary benefit of their research is in allowing the creation of biodegradable, environmentally-friendly neuromorphic processors. Given that only the memristors themselves would be biodegradeable, it’s not completely clear what the practical value of such a benefit would be, but kudos to the scientists for thinking outside the box.