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May 3, 2010 | by  | in News |
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Molecular computer inspired by human brain

Professor Frink says the secret ingredient is… love

A team of Japanese and American researchers has built a molecular computer inspired by the human brain.

One of the researchers, physicist Ranjit Pati, said “modern computers are quite fast, capable of executing trillions of instructions a second, but they can’t match the intelligent performance of our brain”.

“Our neurons only fire about a thousand times per second. But I can see you, recognise you, talk with you, and hear someone walking by in the hallway almost instantaneously, a Herculean task for even the fastest computer.”

That’s because information processing is done sequentially in digital computers. Once a current path is established along a circuit, it does not change.

By contrast, the electrical impulses that travel through our brains follow vast, dynamic, evolving networks of neurons that operate collectively.

The researchers made their computer with DDQ, an organic molecule that self-assembles in two layers on a gold substrate.

The DDQ molecule can switch among four conducting states—0, 1, 2 and 3—unlike the binary switches 0 and 1 used by digital computers.

“The neat part is, approximately 300 molecules talk with each other at a time during information processing,” Pati said. “We have mimicked how neurons behave in the brain.”

The researchers claim that this “dynamically reconfigurable” approach could help solve otherwise intractable computational problems, like predictions of natural calamities and outbreaks of disease.

Like Wolverine but without the adamantium skeleton, their molecular processor heals itself if there is a defect.

This property comes from the self-organising ability of the molecular monolayer.

“No existing man-made computer has this property, but our brain does,” researcher Anirban Bandyopadhyay said. “If a neuron dies, another neuron takes over its function.”

“This is very exciting, a conceptual breakthrough,” Pati said.

“This could change the way people think about molecular computing.”

Their paper, ‘Massively Parallel Computing on an Organic Molecule Layer’, was published in journal Nature Physics, and can be found online.

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