liquid transistors could help build brain-like chips IBM researchers find new molecular technique to charge memory chips

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IBM today announced a materials science breakthrough at the molecular level that could pave the way for a new class of non-volatile memory and logic chips that would use less power than today’s silicon devices like cell phones. Rather than using conventional electrical means to charge today’s semiconductors, IBM’s scientists discovered a new way to power chips using tiny ionic currents, which are streams of charged molecules that can mimic the event-driven way in which the human brain operates. The research is published today in the journal Science. 

Researchers at technology giant IBM have developed an electronic system that mimics circuits in the human brain by using fluids.

Their nanofluidics system is based on materials called “correlated electron oxides”, which can switch between being electrical conductors and insulators when a tiny charge is applied, and keep that state even when unpowered.

“We are using tiny currents of ions of atoms generated by these electrical signals to change the state of matter of this oxide material,” lead researcher Stuart Parkin told Venturebeat.

He added: “It is a means to build low-energy, highly efficient devices by turning on and off their conducting state. We turn this material into a metal and maintain it without any need to supply power.”

The system mimics how the brain operates, leading to hopes that the technology could be used to replicate the brain’s remarkable efficiency. As a side benefit, it could also dramatically reduce the power consumption of mobile devices.

The research was published in Science.

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