An intelligent material that learns by physically changing itself, similar to how the human brain works, could be the foundation of a completely new generation of computers. Radboud physicists working toward this so-called “quantum brain” have made an important step. They have demonstrated that they can pattern and interconnect a network of single atoms, and mimic the autonomous behavior of neurons and synapses in a brain. They report their discovery in Nature Nanotechnology.
Considering the growing global demand for computing capacity, more and more data centers are necessary, all of which leave an ever-expanding energy footprint. “It is clear that we have to find new strategies to store and process information in an energy efficient way,” says project leader Alexander Khajetoorians, Professor of Scanning Probe Microscopy at Radboud University.
“This requires not only improvements to technology but also fundamental research in game changing approaches. Our new idea of building a ‘quantum brain’ based on the quantum properties of materials could be the basis for a future solution for applications in artificial intelligence.”
For artificial intelligence to work, a computer needs to be able to recognize patterns in the world and learn new ones. Today’s computers do this via machine learning software that controls the storage and processing of information on a separate computer hard drive. “Until now, this technology, which is based on a century-old paradigm, worked sufficiently. However, in the end, it is a very energy-inefficient process,” says co-author Bert Kappen, Professor of Neural networks and machine intelligence.
The physicists at Radboud University researched whether a piece of hardware could do the same, without the need for software. They discovered that by constructing a network of cobalt atoms on black phosphorus they were able to build a material that stores and processes information in similar ways to the brain, and, even more surprisingly, adapts itself.
*Article sourced from Sci Tech Daily*