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From Discovering the Fourth Fundamental Circuit Element and Then to Artificial Intelligence, Nanotechnology Leads the Way

Confirmation that biological systems use memristive systems to learn could be step towards AI

1 min read

My first introduction to the discovery of the fabled memristor was right here on the pages of Spectrum and I have been hooked on this story ever since.

Whenever a new bit of information comes out about the memristor, I can’t resist the urge to read that story, or watch that video:

So when I saw Frogheart, which is a new addition to my blog roll, had written something on the latest news around the fourth fundamental circuit element, I was compelled to read it. And I’m glad I did.

The article filled me in on research that took place in 2008 in Japan, which is about the same time that R. Stanley Williams and his colleagues at HP reported that they had manufactured devices that were memristors.

The Japanese researchers were working with rather humble slime mould after having been inspired by a research group at the University of California San Diego (UC San Diego). They were able to confirm that theorist Leon Chua’s intuition that biological organisms used memristive systems to learn. Frogheart was good enough to provide the link to the article from a publication called HPlus.

This year researchers at the University of Michigan led by Dr. Wei Lu have demonstrated how synapses behave like memristors, which was published in Nano Letters

As Frogheart says, “In the short term, scientists talk about energy savings (no need to reboot your computer when you turn it back on). In the longer term, they talk about hardware being able to learn.”

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Two Startups Are Bringing Fiber to the Processor

Avicena’s blue microLEDs are the dark horse in a race with Ayar Labs’ laser-based system

5 min read
Diffuse blue light shines from a patterned surface through a ring. A blue cable leads away from it.

Avicena’s microLED chiplets could one day link all the CPUs in a computer cluster together.


If a CPU in Seoul sends a byte of data to a processor in Prague, the information covers most of the distance as light, zipping along with no resistance. But put both those processors on the same motherboard, and they’ll need to communicate over energy-sapping copper, which slow the communication speeds possible within computers. Two Silicon Valley startups, Avicena and Ayar Labs, are doing something about that longstanding limit. If they succeed in their attempts to finally bring optical fiber all the way to the processor, it might not just accelerate computing—it might also remake it.

Both companies are developing fiber-connected chiplets, small chips meant to share a high-bandwidth connection with CPUs and other data-hungry silicon in a shared package. They are each ramping up production in 2023, though it may be a couple of years before we see a computer on the market with either product.

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