Lead author and PhD student Ruomin Zhu holding the chip that manages the neural network at its centre.
For the first time, a physical neural network has successfully been shown to learn and remember ‘on the fly’, in a way inspired by and similar to how the brain’s neurons work.
The result opens a pathway for developing efficient and low-energy machine intelligence for more complex, real-world learning and memory tasks.
Lead author Ruomin Zhu, a PhD student from the University of Sydney Nano Institute and School of Physics, said: “The findings demonstrate how brain-inspired learning and memory functions using nanowire networks can be harnessed to process dynamic, streaming data.”
Nanowire networks are made up of tiny wires that are just billionths of a metre in diameter. The wires arrange themselves into patterns reminiscent of the children’s game ‘Pick Up Sticks’, mimicking neural networks, like those in our brains. These networks can be used to perform specific information processing tasks.
Memory and learning tasks are achieved using simple algorithms that respond to changes in electronic resistance at junctions where the nanowires overlap. Known as ‘resistive memory switching’, this function is created when electrical inputs encounter changes in conductivity, similar to what happens with synapses in our brain.
In this study, researchers used the network to recognise and remember sequences of electrical pulses corresponding to images, inspired by the way the human brain processes information.