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.
Lesley Drake | alfa
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