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Clumps of Gold Nanoparticals Can Evolve to Carry Out Computing

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Gold nanoparticles.

Researchers at the University of Twente have determined that a loosely organized clump of gold nanoparticles can be made to do calculations.

Credit: Sun Lab/Catalyst Design Lab/Brown University

In an effort to find a way to carry out computations in ways similar to the human brain, researchers at the University of Twente in the Netherlands have found a loosely organized clump of gold nanoparticles can be made to do calculations.

The team laid out a few tens of gold nanoparticles, each about 20 nanometers across, in a rough circle and surrounded them with eight electrodes. Using a genetic algorithm, they identified the combinations of voltages that enabled computations to happen. The voltages cause the gold nanoparticles to form a network of transistors that operate in parallel, similar to the way neurons work in the brain.

The researchers say this approach is less energy-intensive than traditional silicon computer chips.

Although the particles had to be cooled to just above absolute zero in their experiments, researcher Wilfred van der Wiel notes the need to cool the particles decreases with their size, so it could be possible to scale them down to the point they could operate at room temperature.

Van der Wiel says the research could be used to create specialized processors that will be able to tackle problems such as pattern recognition that conventional chips struggle with.

From New Scientist
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