Plastic electronics: materials for brain-inspired computing

The human brain functions incredibly smartly and efficiently. Materials scientist Yoeri van de Burgt (TU/e) examines how this synaptic system can be simulated on a computer chip. By creating organic electronic materials that have the potential to operate at the interface with biology, he offers promising solutions for the manipulation and the processing of biological signals and potential applications ranging from brain-computer-interfaces and smart robotics to bioinformatics.

Brain-inspired computing – also known as neuromorphic computing – refers to technology where computer systems are inspired by the human brain. Nowadays, many artificial intelligence systems used for dedicated machine learning applications are already based on a neural network. Meanwhile, the widely anticipated end to Moore’s law on the one hand and the growing demand for low power computing systems capable of learning, image recognition and real-time analysis of large streams of unstructured data on the other hand have spurred intense interest in neural algorithms for brain-inspired computing. Although brain-inspired computing based on conventional silicon chip technology has revolutionized the fields of data analytics, artificial intelligence, and pattern recognition, it has yet to achieve the interconnectivity and energy efficiency of the brain.

Yoeri van de Burgt is an Assistant Professor in the Microsystems Section at TU/e, as well as a member of the Institute of Complex Molecular Systems (ICMS). His research focuses on making technology even more (energy) efficient using smart materials. Currently, his research group Neuromorphic Engineering is studying the optimization of materials for organic neuromorphic devices, as well as developing neuromorphic arrays for brain-inspired smart biosensors and diagnostic lab-on-a-chips. One of the significant challenges in the development of state-of-the-art organic neuromorphic devices is delivering a compact and efficient parallel computing technology that is capable of embedding artificial neural networks in hardware.

In this lecture, Yoeri van de Burgt provides an overview of the current challenges in the field of brain-inspired computing and the simulation of the brain on a computer chip. He explains how the use of organic electronic materials will offer an attractive alternative for existing systems, and how the use of organic electronic materials could provide relatively inexpensive neuromorphic devices with low-energy switching and excellent tunability, while being biocompatible. It’s a first step in printing an artificial brain on a chip, as well as opening up possibilities in brain-machine interfacing and adaptive learning of artificial organs.

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