Material discovered that can learn like the brain


Technological Innovation Website Editor – 08/23/2022

Discovered material that can learn how oc

The memory effect, which encompasses the entire history of previous stimuli, is embedded in the structure of the material, not in its electronic states.
[Imagem: POWERlab/2022 EPFL]

vandium dioxide

Swiss researchers discovered that the well-known vanadium dioxide (VOtwo), a compound used in electronics, capable of “remembering” the entire history of external stimuli to which it was subjected.

This is the first material to be identified as having this property, but the researchers do not rule out the hypothesis that there may be others like it.

the VOtwo it has an insulating phase at room temperature, when its structure is “relaxed”, but it undergoes a sharp transition from insulator to metal at 68 C, when the structure of its crystal lattice changes, soon after presenting a curious triple point, being both conductor and insulator at the same time, comparable to the triple point of water, only in a solid material.

Leaving aside the triple point, the material functions as a heat-triggered volatile memory, returning to its original state when the stimulus is removed.

Mohammad Nikoo, from the Federal Polytechnic School of Lausanne, wanted to accurately measure the switching speed of this memory, that is, the time it takes for the material to pass from one state to another.

It was by making hundreds of measurements, to arrive at an average, that the researcher noticed a very peculiar characteristic in the data: The material has a memory “embedded” in its own crystalline structure.

Discovered material that can learn how oc

The discovery was made by chance, when the material was being tested for its operation as binary memory.
[Imagem: Mohammad Samizadeh Nikoo et al. – 10.1038/s41928-022-00812-z]

structural memory

The experiment consisted of applying an electric current to the material, which runs through it until it comes out at the other end; as the current warms the VOtwoit changes phase, returning to initial phase when the power is turned off, which causes it to cool down again.

Nikoo then applied a second pulse of current to the material and found that the time it takes for it to change state is directly linked to the history of previous currents.

“The VOtwo it seems to ‘remember’ the first transition phase and anticipate the next,” explains Professor Elison Matioli. “We didn’t expect to see this kind of memory effect, and it has nothing to do with electronic states, but with physical structure. of material. a new discovery: No other material behaves this way.”

This feature means that the VOtwo it no longer works just like a memory cell, capable of switching between a state 0 and a state 1: It works like a neuron, creating yet another component option for neuromorphic computation.

analog memory

The researchers have already confirmed that the VOtwo able to remember its most recent external stimulus for up to three hours. “The memory effect can indeed persist for several days, but we currently don’t have the necessary instruments to measure it,” said Matioli.

The discovery is important because the memory effect is an innate property of the material itself. Although the team will now begin more detailed testing, the VOtwo appears to be promising in all respects when it comes to memory, including increased capacity, speed and miniaturization.

More importantly, however, its characteristic of continuous structural memory sets it apart from conventional memories, which store data as binary information, dependent on the manipulation of electronic states, which makes it suitable to function as a component of analog computing.


Article: Electrical Control of Glass-like Dynamics in Vanadium Dioxide for Data Storage and Processing
Authors: Mohammad Samizadeh Nikoo, Reza Soleimanzadeh, Anna Krammer, Guilherme Migliato Marega, Yunkyu Park, Junwoo Son, Andreas Schueler, Andras Kis, Philip JW Moll, Elison Matioli
Magazine: Nature Electronics
DOI: 10.1038/s41928-022-00812-z

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