Brain-Like Computing at the Atomic Scale Is Possible

University of Limerick’s breakthrough discovery has shown that it is possible to perform unconventional brain-like computing on the smallest scale of atoms or molecules.

The University of Limerick’s Bernal Institute collaborated with international scientists to develop a new organic material that can learn from its past behaviour.


A new study published in the prestigious international journal Nature Materials reveals the existence of a ‘dynamic molecular switching’ that mimics synaptic behaviour.

The team worked during lockdowns to create a layer of molecules two nanometres thick.

Damien Thompson, Professor of Molecular Modelling at UL and Director of SSPC (UL-hosted Science Foundation Ireland Research Centre for Pharmaceuticals), led the study. Christian Nijhuis at the Centre for Molecules and Brain-Inspired Nano Systems at the University of Twente and Enrique del Barco, University of Central Florida, also participated in the research. It is 50,000 times thinner than a hair strand and can remember its history as electrons pass through.


Professor Thompson explained that the “switching probabilities and the values of on/off states continuously change in the molecular materials, which is a disruptive alternative to traditional silicon-based digital switch that can only be on or off”.

The new dynamic organic switch, which was discovered recently, displays all of the mathematical logic functions required for deep learning. It mimics Pavlovian call and response synaptic brain-like behaviour.

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