Neurobiology has represented a key source of inspiration for researchers attempting to create better-performing computers. A cutting-edge memcomputer (a computer prototype) has recently been unveiled by a team of researchers at the San Diego University of California. This prototype is capable of simultaneously storing processes and information, and such advances may allow the memcomputer to perform complex tasks such as breaking codes.
As compared to other types of computers using the standard method devised by Alan Turing, memcomputers function by mimicking the human brain. Everyday computers have separate components for storing information and processes. But separate processing results in time and energy consumption. In the end, this causes performance limitations.
The human brain has de advantage of using neurons as both memory processors and memory storage devices.
Memcomputers work differently. They basically function by incorporating a form of working memory. Unlike any other computer, memcomputers function by changing their memprocessors’ properties to increase efficiency. These memprocessors can therefore not only process but also store data.
One of the theoretical physicists in charge of the project, Massimiliano Di Ventra, explains that he and his colleagues have managed to build such a computer that is capable of solving extraordinarily difficult computational problems.
“If we work with a different paradigm of computation, those problems that are notoriously difficult to solve with current computers can be solved more efficiently with memcomputers,” Di Ventra explains.
The team of researchers only has a proof of concept (POC) at their disposal, and certain issues must still be addressed in order to manufacture such memcomputers. Actually, such computers have been theoretically predicted 45 years ago. It was only in 2008 that researchers could manufacture the first memcomputer, though.
One such issue, Di Ventra explains, is to scale the current version up to a variety of memprocessors. The unique encoding system of memcomputers makes them vulnerable to unpredictable fluctuations which could cause errors. Di Ventra and his team is now investigating whether memcomputers could be designed to encode data differently.
Currently, scientists have attempted to solve such difficult problems by using quantum computers. They work by simultaneously investigating every possible solution. But even such powerful computers have limitations, since they must be operated at low temperatures.
Photo credits: LiveJournal