Researchers have developed an electronic chip based on honey. More ecological and renewable, can these innovative components put an end to the shortage that is paralyzing the industry?
In a study published in the journal Journal of Physics D, researchers from Washington State University (WSU) believe that honey could be used to design electronic chips. To prove their claims, scientists have developed a chip “neuromorphic”.
This is a component designed for mimic the functioning of neurons and human brain synapses. By taking inspiration from the way the brain processes and stores information, the researchers assure that it is possible to revolutionize computing.
Microchips that mimic the human brain
To achieve this, the scientific community is seeking to bring computers closer to the human brain. It is particularly in this perspective that machine learning, or “machine learning,” was born. This area of expertise aims to model the operation of machines on that of a human being.
For the same purpose, researchers at Washington State University have created a memristor using honey. This electronic component makes it possible tomimic brain plasticity, the key to communication between neurons in the human brain, and to evolve according to the electrical signals received. In other words, the memristor is an organic version of the transistor, the component found in most electronic circuits.
To develop these neuromorphic chips, the researchers placed solid honey between two metal electrodes. This structure allowed them to effectively mimic the functioning of a synapse, the area where two neurons come into contact.
“It’s a very small device with a simple structure, but it has very similar functionality to a human neuron. This means that if we can integrate millions or billions of these honey memristors together, then they can be transformed into a neuromorphic system that functions like a human brain.”, explains Feng Zhao, professor at Washington State University and author of the report. The researcher specifies that a memristor is no larger than a human hair.
Neuromorphic chips have several advantages. According to the authors of the study, they are first able to deliver a power similar to that of a human brain. In addition, the solid honey used “does not deteriorate”. For Feng Zhao, the presence of the sweet substance designed by bees guarantees a long life expectancy to his chips. Energy consumption also promises to be lower than that of the usual chips.
Importantly, honey-based microchips are biodegradable and easily renewable. Memristors are indeed soluble in water, say the researchers. “When we want to eliminate devices using honey computer chips, we can easily dissolve them in water. Because of these special properties, honey is very useful for creating renewable and biodegradable neuromorphic systems”, adds Feng Zhao. Clearly, honey presents itself as a solution to the accumulation of electronic waste.
A solution to the shortage?
This discovery comes in a context of chronic shortage. Since the Covid-19 crisis, the entire industry has suffered from a shortage of computer chips. Weakened by health restrictions, production lines still fail to meet demand from manufacturers. Despite the creation of new factories, many experts believe that the shortage of microchips is set to last.
The emergence of a new generation of chips, presented as renewable, could facilitate the production of semiconductors. Indeed, it is easier for manufacturers to produce chips with a renewable material, such as honey, than with rare metals. Note that electronic components are generally composed of about sixty materials, including certain metals and rare earths. To produce semiconductors, companies also rely on certain noble gases.
However, these rare commodities risk becoming unobtainable. Unfortunately, research on honey-based neuromorphic compounds is still in its infancy.
National Science Foundation