The modern transistor is the real driving force behind how our current computer technology operates. Now IBM says they have taken the old technology and developed a liquid-based transistor that operates much like our brain.
In the early 20th century, most electronics like the early TVs and radios relied on the humble vacuum tube. While it was a great leap in technology, they consumed a lot of power and were bulky. Scientists at the time knew we needed a solid-state amplifier that could switch electronic signals and electrical power. In the late 1940s, the development of the modern transistor soon replaced the vacuum tube and today is found in most modern electronics. Now IBM says they have developed a new transistor that works a lot like our own neural pathways.
Other than being made very small, the way in which transistor works has not changed very much over the years. IBM decided to take another look at it with a new approach in developing a transistor that can enable a computer to operate much like the human brain. Even more fantastically, this new transistor is liquid-based.
IBM says all mobile devices and other computers would be developed with far more efficiency with using what they call "correlated electron oxides”. The researchers feel they can advance this technology to create a genuine non-volatile memory chip that saves data with our without an electrical charge being applied. Researchers also say that logic chips would use far less power than what current silicon-based semiconductor chips use now.
The breakthrough was first published in the journal Science and reported first by The New York Times. It is described as a transistor that reads ionic signals instead of normal electronic signals that common transistors rely on. When these oxides in the transistor are mixed with an ionic fluid containing a 50/50 mix of positive and negative charges, you get a current flow in a specific direction once a small amount of ionic voltage is applied.
Stuart Parkin who works as a physicist and IBM fellow told the NY Times, “I’m particularly excited by our findings because a lot of how the brain operates is by the flow of ions and ion channels. In some sense what we want to do is mimic those components of the brain.”
IBM says that one-day soon after working with this new technology we may be able to mimic exactly how the brain operates.