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Artificial synapse said to rival biological synapses in energy consumption and function


An artificial synapse that emulates a biological synapse while requiring less energy has been developed by Pohang University Of Science & Technology (POSTECH) researchers* in Korea.

A human synapse consumes an extremely small amount of energy (~10 fJ or femtojoules** per synaptic event).

The researchers have fabricated an organic nanofiber (ONF), or organic nanowire (ONW), electronic device that emulates the important working principles and energy consumption of biological synapses while requiring only ~1 fJ per synaptic event. The ONW also emulates the morphology (form) of a synapse.

The morphology of ONFs is similar to that of nerve fibers, which form crisscrossing grids to enable the high memory density of a human brain. The researchers say the highly-aligned ONFs can be massively produced with precise control over alignment and dimension; and this morphology may make possible the future construction of the high-density memory of a neuromorphic (brain-form-emulating) system.****

The researchers say they have emulated important working principles of a biological synapse, such as paired-pulse facilitation (PPF), short-term plasticity (STP), long-term plasticity (LTP), spike-timing dependent plasticity (STDP), and spike-rate dependent plasticity (SRDP).

The artificial synapse devices provide a new research direction in neuromorphic electronics and open a new era of organic electronics with high memory density and low energy consumption, the researchers claim. Potential applications include neuromorphic computing systems, AI systems for self-driving cars, analysis of big data, cognitive systems, robot control, medical diagnosis, stock-trading analysis, remote sensing, and other smart human-interactive systems and machines in the future, they suggest.

This research was supported by the Pioneer Research Center Program and Center for Advanced Soft-Electronics as a Global Frontier Project, funded by the Korean Ministry of Science, ICT, and Future Planning.

The research was published an open-access paper in Science Advances, a new sister journal of Science.