The advances in modern computing technology have predominantly been driven by improving semiconductor processing to make transistors run faster. This type of methodology, known as transistor scaling, has significantly slowed down in the past 15 years due to physical limitations. Meanwhile, improvements in computing technology have immensely impacted our lives in the past 50 years and there is an ever increasing demand for higher computational systems and lower energy consuming devices.
Scientists and engineers have often looked to biology for developing new ideas. Nature has had about 4 billion years to evolve into the systems we see today and many are breathtakingly efficient and highly innovative. In fact many innovations in computing systems and algorithms already use biological systems as inspiration. The best known are perhaps found in the area of artificial intelligence. For instance, algorithms based on ‘neural networks’ were inspired by how biological brains function. Multi-core processors and the architecture of GPUs, where many processors function in parallel, could also be considered as ‘biological inspirations’.
At LPICM our goal is to develop new technologies that can exploit ‘biological innovations’ in ways that are not possible in conventional silicon devices. Typically we look at how different biological systems work and then try to apply it, in a modified version, to suit new types of devices and systems. Our team is mostly a a mix of physicists and electrical engineers but key to our projects are collaborations with biologists, neuroscientists and materials scientists to develop these new types of systems. Here is a look at some of our ongoing projects. (links to three projects)