Thursday, September 21, 2023

Imitating the astonishing energy efficiency phenomena of the human brain presents the next challenge in high-speed computing. Potential solutions might combine new quantum functionality that arise from nano-scale complex materials to replicate brain-like performance, or neuromorphic computing.
Yohannes Abate, UGA Photo

Yohannes Abate, Susan Dasher and Charles Dasher MD Professor of Physics in the University of Georgia Franklin College of Arts and Sciences department of physics and astronomy, has been awarded a $1.25 million grant from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation Experimental Physics Investigators Initiative. Abate received a Ph.D. in Physics from the University of Iowa in 2006 and was a student of Prof. Paul Kleiber.

The funding will enable Abate's research team to further explore fundamental properties of nanometer-scale oxide material devices that behave like biological synaptic systems.The goal of the research, in anticipation of the ravenous energy consumption required by digital and quantum computing, and particularly efforts in large language models (LLM) and artificial intelligence, is to change the architecture of conventional computing in favor of synaptic action signaling that emulate brain-like performance.

"Biological brains function using brain cells – neurons – that communicate with others neurons by sending signals via connections called synapses. This communication (synaptic action) occurs via changes in charge concentrations that modify the transmission of an electrical signal across the synapse," Abate said. "This research will try to mimic that synaptic gap at a very small scale on a material and gain understanding of the mechanism of transmission of information-carrying weak signals that will enable computing resembling that of the brain."

The 'brain in a chip' concept would potentially open energy-efficient new frontiers for fundamental understanding of memory, learning, and information retention for brain-inspired information processing.

By Alan Flurry, University of Georgia