Researchers in the US have developed a superconducting switch that learns like its biological counterpart. The switch, called a synapse, could connect processors and store memories within future computers operating like the human brain.
The switch developed at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in Colorado supplies a missing piece for so-called neuromorphic computers, according to the study, described in journal Science Advances.
Envisioned as a new type of artificial intelligence (AI), such computers could boost perception and decision-making for applications such as self-driving cars and cancer diagnosis.
Biological synapse is a connection or switch between two brain cells. NIST’s artificial synapse, a squat metallic cylinder 10 micrometres in diameter, is a connecting switch between incoming electrical spikes and the signals being output. It works in the same way that a human synapse quickly switches between two brain cells.
According to the study, NIST’s synapse would be used in neuromorphic computers made of superconducting components, which can transmit electricity without resistance, and, therefore, would be more efficient than other designs based on semiconductors or software.