26 April 2010

International team claim organic computing breakthrough

by Kate Melville

Magnetic resonance images of human brain during different functions appear on top. Similar evolving patterns have been generated on the molecular monolayer one after another (bottom). A snapshot of the evolving pattern for a particular brain function is captured using Scanning Tunneling Microscope at 0.68 V tip bias (scale bar is 6 nm). The input pattern to mimic particular brain function is distinct, and the dynamics of pattern evolution is also typical for a particular brain operation. A research team from Japan's National Institute for Materials Science and Michigan Technological University has replicated the problem-solving actions of neurons in an organic molecular layer that they say is massively parallel and self-healing - the first time such a brain-like circuit has been created.

Writing about his work in Nature Physics, lead researcher Anirban Bandyopadhyay said the monolayer circuit allows instantaneous changes of ~300 bits. He adds that the new processor can produce solutions to problems for which algorithms on digital computers are unknown, such as predictions of natural calamities and outbreaks of disease. To demonstrate this, the researchers have mimicked two natural phenomena: heat diffusion and the evolution of cancer cells.

Bandyopadhyay says the organic molecular processor heals itself if there is a defect, explaining that the self-healing property comes from the self-organizing ability of the molecular monolayer. No existing man-made computer has this property, but the human brain does: if a neuron dies, another neuron takes over its function.

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