IBM's liquid-based transistors point to human brain-like chips

IBM's Newest Invention Mimics the Human Brain on an Atomic Level - Adam Clark Estes - The Atlantic Wire

IBM scientists described a new kind of circuit in a paper published in Science on Thursday. There is no chip involve, per se. It's being described accurately as a "post-silicon transistor" and potentially paves the way for the most powerful and efficient computers the world has ever seen. This is possible largely because it mimics the behavior of another hyper-efficient computational marvel: the human brain.

IBM creates liquid-based transistors that can process data like the human brain | VentureBeat

The new technology is based on materials called “correlated electron oxides,” which can be combined with an ionic liquid, or a mixture where half of the molecules carry a positive charge and half are negative. When you apply a tiny ionic voltage to the liquid, the charged particles move to opposite sides of the surface of the oxide material. The charge leaves the oxide and goes into the liquid, changing its conductive state from an insulator to a metal, or from something that does not conduct electricity to something that does.

And it maintains its electrical state until another charge is applied. That part of the research is new and is particularly encouraging. IBM believes it can create non-volatile memory, or chips that save data whether electricity is on or off. It can also make logic chips that would use less power than today’s silicon-based semiconductor chips, which are the brains of everything electronic.

IBM News room - 2013-03-01 Made in IBM Labs: Scientists Discover New Atomic Technique to Charge Memory Chips - United States

The I.B.M. researchers hope that their approach could be used to build more brain-like computers.

The advantage of the new method is that it is both nonvolatile — it requires only a small amount of electricity to change the materials from one state to another, and they then remain in that state — and is potentially reversible, meaning that it could be used to build a device like a transistor.

The researchers noted that while the switching speed of the new materials might never match the raw speed of today’s transistors, their biological-like qualities might make them appropriate for building a new generation of sensors or memories.