Molecular memristor for new low power computing architectures

September 02, 2021 // By Nick Flaherty
Molecular memristor for new low power computing architectures
An organo-metal memristor that can hold multiple states could allow new low power computing architectures say researchers at the University of Limerick and HP

Researchers in Ireland have discovered a new molecule that could lead to new computing architectures.

The team at the Bernal Institute at the University of Limerick worked with HP in the US on a organo-metal molecule with 77 atoms provides a new fundamental electronic circuit element in which complex logic is encoded in nanoscale material properties. The molecular memristor is a globally passive resistive-switch circuit element that can hold mulutple states

A  voltage-driven conditional logic interconnection among five distinct molecular redox states in the memristor creates a ‘thicket’ of decision trees. These are composed of multiple if-then-else conditional statements and have 71 nodes within a single memristor. The resulting current–voltage characteristic of the molecular memristor exhibits eight recurrent and history-dependent non-volatile switching transitions between two levels.

The team used computer simulations performed on the Irish Centre for High-End Computing supercomputer to show the molecule uses natural asymmetry in its metal-organic bonds to cleanly switch between different states, which allows it to perform ‘ultra-fast’ switching.

The team developed simple circuits built from just the memristor with dynamically reconfigurable, commutative and non-commutative stateful logic. This could be used as local intelligence in edge computing, say the team.

“In the new device, everything is done in one place, so there is no need to keep reading or moving information around,” said Damien Thompson, Professor in Physics at UL who leads a research team in predictive materials design at the Bernal Institute (above).

“This removes the ‘von Neumann bottleneck’, a problem that has plagued computing from the very beginning and still hampers technology development. The new molecular circuitry means the computer-processing unit no longer has to fetch data for every operation it performs, and this saves enormously on time and energy costs,” he said.

“We are excited about the possibilities because the devices show all the hallmarks of brain computing. First, a huge number of tiny, identical molecular processors are networked together and work in parallel. More importantly, they show both redundancy and reconfigurability, which means the device can solve problems even if the individual components do not all work perfectly all the time or in the exact same way every time.

“The new circuit elements could provide computers that are smaller, faster, and more energy efficient, exactly what is needed for edge computing, internet of things and artificial intelligence applications,” said Thompson.

The metal-organic molecules were synthesised by collaborators at the Indian Association for the Cultivation of Science (IACS) in Kolkata, made into films at National University of Singapore and tested as circuit elements in Singapore, at Hewlett Packard’s AI Research Lab in Colorado and at Texas A&M University.

“This high impact research reinforces the ambition of the Bernal Institute at UL to impact the world on the basis of top science in an increasingly international context. This is a continuation of Bernal scientists’ world-leading contribution to the field of predictive materials modelling,” said Professor Luuk van der Wielen, Director of Bernal Institute and Bernal Professor of Biosystems Engineering and Design

The Bernal Institute at University of Limerick is an €102m science and engineering research institute in a new science and engineering zone at UL and is named after John Desmond Bernal, one of the most influential scientists of the 20th Century who was born in Nenagh, County Tipperary.

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-021-03748-0

www.ul.ie

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Picture: 
Prof Damien Thompson, Professor in Physics at the University of Limerick

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