Can honey end the shortage of computer chips?

Researchers have created an electronic chip based on honey. More ecological and innovative, can these new components end 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 made chips “neuromorphic”.

This is a component designed for mimics the movement of neurons and human brain synapses. By taking inspiration from the way the brain processes and stores information, the researchers made sure that it was possible to innovate computing.

Microchips that mimic the human brain

To achieve this, the scientific community seeks to bring computers closer to the human brain. This is especially so in this view machine learning, or “machine learning,” was born. This part of the skill is aimed at modeling the operation of one’s machines.

For the same purpose, researchers at Washington State University created a memristor using honey. This electronic component makes it possible tomimic the plasticity of the brain, 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 allows them to effectively mimic the movement of a synapse, the place where two neurons contact.

“It’s a very small device with a simple structure, but it has the same functionality of a human neuron. It means that if we can integrate millions or billions of these honey memristors, then it can be a neuromorphic system that acts like the human brain., explains Feng Zhao, professor at Washington State University and author of the report. The researcher determined that a memristor is not larger than human hair.

Greener chips

Neuromorphic chips have many advantages. According to the authors of the study, they were first able to deliver a power similar to that of the human brain. In addition, solid honey is used “not damaged”. For Feng Zhao, the presence of the sweet substance designed by bees guarantees long life expectancy of his chips. Energy consumption also promises to be lower than conventional chips.

Importantly, honey-based microchips are biodegradable and easily recycled. The memristors are actually soluble in water, the researchers point out. “If we want to remove 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., added Feng Zhao. Clearly honey is showing itself as a solution to electronic waste collection.

Solution to kakuwang?

This discovery comes in a context of constant scarcity. 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 innovative, could facilitate the manufacture of semiconductors. In fact, it is easier for manufacturers to make chips with a renewable material, such as honey, than with rare metals. Note that electronic components are typically composed of about sixty materials, including some metals and rare earth. To make semiconductors, companies also rely on some noble gases.

However, these unique commodities risk not being available. Unfortunately, research on honey -based neuromorphic compounds is still in its infancy.


National Science Foundation

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