Tomorrow’s processor can be made from… honey

Honey has a whole host of unusual properties and researchers have just discovered a new one that could serve as the base material for the following processors.

Honey can evoke many things: bees, nature, a wonderfully sweet sweetness, but also its beneficial effect. Nothing in your natural mind can suggest computing, and yet…

Researchers at Washington State University (WSU) have discovered that the future of neuromorphic computer chips is in the honey. This natural substance could hold the key to a chip designed to function like the human brain while providing ecological guarantees.

Performance comparable to human neurons

A neuromorphic chip consists of memristors, transistor-like components that can process and store information like a human brain. The advantage of such a structure would be that it compromises the raw computing power of a computer and the extreme adaptability of the human brain.

To get a structure close to that of neurons, the scientists used real honey which they turned into a solid. It was then placed between two electrodes to simulate human synapses. The result is a chip that reproduces the operation of synapses with the same ability to turn on or off as in humans (ie, a time between 100 and 500 nanoseconds).

Although other organic materials such as proteins and sugars have also been considered, honey dominates the discussions. Its properties make it a naturally antibacterial material, which, according to Feng Zhao, means “highly stable and reliable computer chips for a long time”. In addition, it would be enough to dissolve the honey for recycling.

A long way to go

Honey-based chips shouldn’t be appearing anytime soon. Despite the successful completion of a first set of steps, the production of honey chips still has many technical limitations to overcome.

The most obvious of these is size. Currently, the tested memristor measures the width of a human hair. Before we can think of making a complete neuromorphic chip, we would have to divide the size of the memristor by 1000 and produce it on a nanometric scale. By comparison, the human brain has over 100 billion neurons, or over 1000 trillion synapses.

Honey processors should therefore not arrive in our computers or smartphones tomorrow, but tell yourself when you come across a bee that it may be carrying some of the technology of the future.

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