A technology that works like a brain? In more complex applications, computers today quickly reach their limits. One of the reasons for this is that their computing units and data memories are separate by concept. As a result, all data has to be sent back and forth. In this respect, the brain itself is many steps ahead of the most modern computers because it processes and stores information in the same place: at the synapses, connections of nerve cells, of which there are about 100 trillion in the brain. An international team of researchers has now succeeded in developing hardware that could pave the way for brain-like computers: The nanoscientists produced a chip on which a network of artificial neurons extends that works with light and can imitate the behaviour of nerve cells in the brain.
The researchers were able to show that such an optical neurosynaptic network is capable of "learning" information and using it to calculate and recognize patterns - just like a brain. Since the system works exclusively with light instead of electrons, it can process data many times faster. "This integrated photonic system is an experimental milestone. The approach could later be used in many areas to evaluate patterns in large amounts of data, for example in medical diagnostics," says Prof. Dr. Wolfram Pernice, head of the study at the University of Münster (WWU).