It turns out that honey is much more than just a tasty addition to your tea. Engineers from Washington State University have reimagined the use of the sticky substance in brain-like neuromorphic computers. These systems are designed to mimic the human brain, where biological structures are replaced with electrical components.
Many have hailed this type of technology as the future of computing, thanks to its faster speed, reduced power requirements, and smaller size compared to traditional computers. Besides improving overall computing efficiency, neuromorphic computers have the potential to improve prosthetic limbs, drug delivery systems, programming languages, and many more.
How does honey come into play?
The group showed that honey can be used to create a memristor for these systems. Memristors are components that control electrical signals and also store data.
To convert honey into a memristor, it was processed into a solid and placed between two pieces of metal. This setup is similar to how the human brain works, where the metal pieces act as synapses to transfer signals between the honey-based neurons which carry the message.
“This is a very small device with a simple structure, but it has very similar functionalities to a human neuron,” said Feng Zhao, who worked on the study. “This means if we can integrate millions or billions of these honey memristors together, then they can be made into a neuromorphic system that functions much like a human brain.”
An environmentally friendly non-toxic solution
The human brain contains 100 billion neurons and 1,000 trillion synapses. Neuromorphic computers don’t have quite as many but still are composed of a whopping 100 million “neurons” per chip. Despite their potentially revolutionary applications, these chips are currently made out of nonrenewable and toxic materials.
Enter honey. This environmentally friendly alternative cuts down on toxic and electronic waste. “Honey does not spoil,” Zhao explained. “It has a very low moisture concentration, so bacteria cannot survive in it. This means these computer chips will be very stable and reliable for a very long time.”
They continued: “When we want to dispose of devices using computer chips made of honey, we can easily dissolve them in water. Because of these special properties, honey is very useful for creating renewable and biodegradable neuromorphic systems.”
Source study: Journal of Physics D – Memristive synaptic device based on a natural organic material—honey for spiking neural network in biodegradable neuromorphic systems