TSUKUBA, Japan, March 27, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — Researchers at the International Center for Materials Nanoarchitectonics (WPI-MANA), a unit of the National Institute for Materials Science (NIMS), are pursuing innovative technologies that mimic the functions of the human brain.
Thinking and perception — the hallmarks of an artificially intelligent system — are the focus of intense research at MANA, and it is producing exciting results, as well as a host of promising applications.
Two MANA researchers, Tomonobu Nakayama and Genki Yoshikawa, are engaged in work that uses nanotechnology to achieve performance that approaches that of our own biological systems. Dr. Nakayama is developing a nanoarchitectonics network that exhibits emergent cognition — an artificial brain — and Dr. Yoshikawa is developing a nano-perceptive olfactory system — an artificial nose.
Thinking and sensing
Nakayama and his team are using the tools of nanotechnology to create synthetic neural networks that can “think” and “learn,” which could result in novel memory devices.
“Nanotechnology is quite important in integrating nano-functionality into a system,” Nakayama noted. “And in this case, the sensing and cognitive parts do not rely on software. Probably the type or speed of mechanical motion also imparts cognitive information.”
Brain-like behavior cannot be achieved only by making everything accurate and precise — there is more to cognition and learning than merely flipping switches on and off. “So we need to think about the relationship between the fluctuation or speed of the action and how to include a variety of uncontrolled natural factors,” Nakayama said.
The team formed their “neuromorphic network” by integrating numerous silver nanowires covered with a polymer insulating layer about 1 nm in thickness. Each junction between two nanowires forms a variable resistive element — a synaptic element — which behaves like a neuronal synapse. The resulting structure is like a kitchen scrub made of entangled wire, containing many contacts between the wires.
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MANA E-BULLETIN / FEATURE