In the field of photogenetics, light pulses are used to influence the changes of cell electrical activity. Past studies have tried this method to study neurons in the brain, to "reset" our biological clock, to adjust pain thresholds, and even to "correct" dangerous irregular heartbeats.
The new computer chip, developed by researchers at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT), Australian National University, Colorado State University and Queensland University of Science and Technology, aims to run the principles of optogenetics and act like the brain. To this end, it uses different colors of light to write, process and delete data.
"Our optical excitation chips mimic the basic biology of nature's best computer, the human brain," said Sumeet Walia, lead researcher of the study. "Being able to store, delete and process information is critical to computing, and the brain can do this very efficiently. We can simulate the brain's neurological methods by painting different colors on the chip.
Use light to generate photocurrent on the chip and change the direction or polarity of the color. Repeated execution in some mode allows artificial synapses to create and disconnect connections between components, similar to how neurons in the brain transmit messages to form memories.
The chip is made of black phosphorus, which is a semiconductor material and has become a potential important component of electronic products in the future. Researchers say the chip can be used in wearable electronic devices and can help advance two areas of computing: light-based devices and brain-inspired devices.
"This technology will lead us to a fast, efficient and secure way of light-based computing," Walia said. "It's also an important step towards the realization of a bionic brain that can learn from its surroundings just like humans."
The study was published in the Journal Advanced Functional Materials.