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Stretchy synaptic transistors can enhance, weaken device memories

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Robotics and wearable devices may get a little smarter. Engineers at Penn State University have created a stretchy, wearable synapse that functions like neurons in the brain, sending signals to some cells and inhibiting others to strengthen and weaken the device’s memory. Developed his transistor.

Artificial synaptic transistors, which exhibit brain-like excitatory and inhibitory behavior, can provide diverse functions and efficient computing in a variety of applications. However, some of these applications, soft robotics When wearable electronicsrequires a mechanically soft and deformable synaptic device.

The team designed artificial synaptic transistors to integrate into robots and wearables and use artificial intelligence to optimize their function. Synaptic transistors are reconfigurable. This means it can be twisted and bent and still function. Conventional transistors, on the other hand, are stiff and can break when bent.

“Using synaptic transistors to mirror the human brain, robots and wearable devices, we can use those artificial neurons to ‘learn’ and adapt their behavior. ” Cunjiang Yu, who led the team, Dorothy Quiggle Career Development Associate Professor of Engineering Science and Mechanics and Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Material Science and Engineering, said: “For example, if you burn your hand on a stove, it hurts, so you don’t touch it next time. Devices that use synaptic transistors have the same result. artificial intelligence It can “learn” and adapt to its environment. ”

The artificial neurons within the device are designed to function like neurons in the ventral tegmental area. The ventral tegmental area is a small part of the human brain located at the top of the brain. brain stem. Neurons process and transmit information by releasing neurotransmitters at synapses, usually at the ends of nerve cells. Excitatory neurotransmitters induce activity in other neurons and are associated with memory consolidation, whereas inhibitory neurotransmitters decrease activity in other neurons and are associated with memory weakening.

“Unlike all other areas of the brain, neurons in the ventral tegmental area can release both excitatory and inhibitory neurotransmitters simultaneously.” Yu said. “By designing the synaptic transistors to operate simultaneously in both synaptic operations, fewer transistors are needed compared to traditional integrated electronics techniques, simplifying the system architecture and allowing the device to save energy. Become.”

The researchers used a stretchable double-layer semiconductor material to fabricate the device, allowing it to stretch and twist during use. According to researchers, the transistor is mechanically deformable and functionally reconfigurable, yet retains its functionality even when stretched significantly. It can be attached to a robot or wearable device and act as the outermost skin.

Journal reference:

  1. Hyunseok Shim, Faheem Ershad, Shubham Patel, Yongcao Zhang, Binghao Wang, Zhihua Chen, Tobin J. Marks, Antonio Facchetti, Cunjiang Yu. A stretchable and reconfigurable synaptic transistor based on a stretchable bilayer semiconductor. Nature Electronics, 2022. Doi: 10.1038/s41928-022-00836-5

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