Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

UWE Scientists Help Bring Computers And Robots To Life

22.07.2004


New sources of computing power – derived from such novel areas as neuron-like cells and powerful chemical reactions – could form the heart of the next generation of computers. The University of the West of England and four research partners have just won £1.8 million in government funding to carry out research into computers that are inspired by nature. This means UWE is playing a key role in two out of only five nationally funded projects aimed at such exciting multidisciplinary research.



In the first, £1.2 million project, computer scientists, biologists and chemists at UWE will work with the universities of Sussex and Leeds to develop alternatives to the silicon chip. They will look at two new approaches that use real biological neurons and networks of chemical reactions.

Project leader Dr Larry Bull from UWE’s faculty of Computing, Engineering and Mathematical Sciences said: “We will combine techniques from machine learning with those from cell culturing, neurobiology and experimental chemistry. We are using cultures of neuron-like cells that are stimulated electrically to form growing networks. The network’s responses to such stimuli are electrical signals that may be interpreted as a computation. Certain chemical reactions can be controlled by light and we can observe and measure the spontaneous waves they create across a suitable substrate within a network, again interpreting resultant behaviour as computation.


“With this research we aim to create novel computing devices from materials which have inherently complex properties that could therefore be capable of solving tasks of great complexity. There are many other potential beneficiaries in areas such as medicine.”

Professor Wendy Purcell, Dean of the Faculty of Applied Sciences and a key researcher in the team said: “We are delighted to be part of this multidisciplinary team seeing our work on developing tissue models in the lab that behave as the in-life cells being used to drive machines. This work comes from our studies on producing cell cultures to replace animal use in research. Cells harvested from your breakfast egg may now power the computers of the future so machines can think!"

The second project, in which UWE and Edinburgh University are collaborating with the University of Sheffield, will investigate how the human brain is able to control and stabilize body movement so effectively, with the aim of applying the findings to robotic systems. Examples of possible uses are for small rough-terrain walking robots that could be used for operating in dangerous environments such as minefields, or for rescue missions in natural or human-created disaster sites such as plane crashes.

“We will be using the award to build a six-legged walking robot that guides its motion using a motorised vision system,” said Dr Tony Pipe. “We will embed an artificial cerebellum directly into electronic hardware to act as the core controller in guiding movement. The cerebellum is the part of the brain that acts as a regulator in the timing of movements. One example is known as the vestibulo-ocular reflex, where we compensate for the undulations of the walking motion in maintaining gaze stability on an object. This ability is crucial for maintaining the gaze on a remote object during ‘search and find’ operations.

“The research will bring about a significant advance in our understanding of how the cerebellum controls body stability and how this can be mimicked by robots. This means that robot engineers will benefit from new discoveries in neuroscience and vice versa.”

Professor Steve Hoddell, Dean of the Faculty of Computing, Engineering and Mathematical Sciences at UWE, said: “These are very exciting awards and show that UWE is at the forefront of interdisciplinary research into new and unconventional types of computing.
The applications of this work have a potential that could be felt across a wide range of areas including artificial intelligence, biology, engineering, medicine and neuroscience.”

Lesley Drake | alfa
Further information:
http://www.uwe.ac.uk

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Nerves control the body’s bacterial community
26.09.2017 | Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel

nachricht Ageless ears? Elderly barn owls do not become hard of hearing
26.09.2017 | Carl von Ossietzky-Universität Oldenburg

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: The fastest light-driven current source

Controlling electronic current is essential to modern electronics, as data and signals are transferred by streams of electrons which are controlled at high speed. Demands on transmission speeds are also increasing as technology develops. Scientists from the Chair of Laser Physics and the Chair of Applied Physics at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) have succeeded in switching on a current with a desired direction in graphene using a single laser pulse within a femtosecond ¬¬ – a femtosecond corresponds to the millionth part of a billionth of a second. This is more than a thousand times faster compared to the most efficient transistors today.

Graphene is up to the job

Im Focus: LaserTAB: More efficient and precise contacts thanks to human-robot collaboration

At the productronica trade fair in Munich this November, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be presenting Laser-Based Tape-Automated Bonding, LaserTAB for short. The experts from Aachen will be demonstrating how new battery cells and power electronics can be micro-welded more efficiently and precisely than ever before thanks to new optics and robot support.

Fraunhofer ILT from Aachen relies on a clever combination of robotics and a laser scanner with new optics as well as process monitoring, which it has developed...

Im Focus: The pyrenoid is a carbon-fixing liquid droplet

Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.

A warming planet

Im Focus: Highly precise wiring in the Cerebral Cortex

Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.

The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...

Im Focus: Tiny lasers from a gallery of whispers

New technique promises tunable laser devices

Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

“Lasers in Composites Symposium” in Aachen – from Science to Application

19.09.2017 | Event News

I-ESA 2018 – Call for Papers

12.09.2017 | Event News

EMBO at Basel Life, a new conference on current and emerging life science research

06.09.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Nerves control the body’s bacterial community

26.09.2017 | Life Sciences

Four elements make 2-D optical platform

26.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Goodbye, login. Hello, heart scan

26.09.2017 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>