Stretchy, bio-inspired synaptic transistor can enhance and weaken device memories

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Robotics and wearable devices may soon get a little smarter with the addition of a stretchy, wearable synaptic transistor developed by Penn State engineers. The device works like neurons in the brain to send signals to certain cells and inhibit others to enhance and weaken the devices memory.

Led by Cunjiang Yu, Dorothy Quiggle Career Development Associate Professor of Engineering Science and Mechanics and Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Materials Science and Engineering, the team designed the synaptic transistor to be integrated into robots or wearable devices and used artificial intelligence to optimize functions. Details have been published in Natural electronics.

“By mirroring the human brain, robots and wearable devices using the synaptic transistor can use its artificial neurons to ‘learn’ and adapt their behaviors,” Yu said. it hurts, and we know not to touch it next time. The same results will be possible for devices that use the synaptic transistor, as artificial intelligence is able to learn and adapt to its environment.

According to Yu, the artificial neurons in the device were designed to function like neurons in the ventral tegmental area, a tiny segment of the human brain located at the highest part of the brainstem. Neurons process and transmit information by releasing neurotransmitters at their synapses, usually located at the ends of neural cells. Excitatory neurotransmitters trigger the activity of other neurons and are associated with improving memories, while inhibitory neurotransmitters reduce the activity of other neurons and are associated with weakening memories.

“Unlike all other areas of the brain, neurons in the ventral tegmental area are able to simultaneously release excitatory and inhibitory neurotransmitters,” Yu said. transistors are required compared to conventional embedded electronic technology, which simplifies the system architecture and allows the device to save energy.”

To model soft, stretchy biological tissue, the researchers used stretchable bilayer semiconductor materials to fabricate the device, allowing it to stretch and twist during use, according to Yu. Conventional transistors, on the other hand, are rigid and break when deformed.

“The transistor is mechanically deformable and functionally reconfigurable, while retaining its functions when stretched significantly,” Yu said. “It can attach to a robot or wearable device to serve as the outermost skin.”

In addition to Yu, other contributors include Hyunseok Shim and Shubham Patel of Penn State’s Department of Engineering and Mechanical Sciences; Yongcao Zhang, from the University of Houston’s Materials Science and Engineering program; Faheem Ershad, Penn State Department of Biomedical Engineering and University of Houston Department of Biomedical Engineering; Binghao Wang, School of Electronic Science and Engineering, Southeastern University and Department of Chemistry and Materials Research Center, Northwestern University; Zhihua Chen, Flexterra Inc.; Tobin J. Marks, Department of Chemistry and Materials Research Center, Northwestern University; Antonio Facchetti, Flexterra Inc. and Northwestern University Department of Chemistry and Materials Research Center.

– This press release was originally published on the Penn State website

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