Collaborative universities in Sweden and Japan have been successful in their ongoing quest to make computers more energy efficient by making them function more like the human brain. Scientists from the University of Gothenburg and the University of Tohoku, located in the city of Sendai, 380 kilometers north of Tokyo, did so under the auspices of the Topotronic Multi-Dimensional Spin Hall Nano-Oscillator Networks research project. referred to as “Topspin” (as in tennis or snooker).
Topspin’s goal is to be a catalyst to help create more efficient technologies in sectors such as mobile phones, satellites and autonomous vehicles. In this case, the fruit of the academic collaboration proves, for the first time, that it is possible to combine oscillators and memristors, merging them into a single unit combining both memory and computational functions.
Recently, research interest in using interconnected oscillator networks to improve computing has increased dramatically due to the belief that oscillator-based systems may well be developed that faster and more than traditional digital circuits. Meanwhile, a self-timer limits or regulates the flow of electric current in a circuit and remembers the amount of charge that previously flowed through it. In other words, they are involuntary and this is very important because they retain memory without power.
It has been found that sets of memory-controlled oscillators can approach the copying of the neural networks of the human brain which, it seems, somehow actually function on oscillating signals. This is an attractive notion and work on artificial neutrons and synapses has been going on, with considerable success, for several years now. The joint Swedish / Japanese Topspin research shows that oscillators and oscillator circuits can perform complex calculations in a way that mimics how human nerve and memory cells seem to do the same thing.
Quoted in the journal Nature Materials, Johan Åkerman, Professor of Applied Spintronics at the University of Gothenburg’s Physics Department, says, At the same time, the human brain is still incomparable in its ability to perform tasks efficiently and energetically, and finding new ways to perform calculations that resemble brain energy efficiency processes has been a major goal of research for decades.
He adds, “Cognitive tasks … require significant computing power, and mobile applications, especially drones and satellites, require energy-efficient solutions. This is a major breakthrough because we show that it is possible to combine a memory function with a computational function in the same component. .These components act more like the energy-efficient neural networks of the brain, allowing them to become important building blocks in the future, more brain computers. “
As for better, more energy-efficient mobile phones, Professor Åkerman believes that the new research will lead to new features on the devices. He uses the example of digital assistants such as Siri where, at present, all processing has to be done with remote servers because such processing-heavy work on a mobile phone is very energy-efficient. However, if components could be small enough, many hundreds of them would fit in a mobile phone enabling energy-efficient local processing and bypassing the need for power-consuming servers. Under laboratory conditions, research scientists have been able to produce components so microscopically small that they are “less than the size of a single bacterium.”
Moreover, Spintronics, or spin electronics, is a technology that exploits the internal spin characteristics of the electron. An electron can exist in one of two spin states: spin-up and spin-down, ie it can rotate either clockwise or counterclockwise with a constant frequency around its axis. This property can be pressed in use to represent either 0 or 1 in logic operations.