A Small Step For Artificial Intelligence

A French team, from the Laboratoire de Photonique et de Nanostructures, have just released research results that could pave the way for the eventual development of an artificial brain that has a neuron based architecture similar to human beings.

What the team, led by Sylvain Barbay, have managed to develop is a small ‘micropillar’ laser, constructed from layers of  ‘saturable’ semi conducting material, that mimics both unidirectional neuron pulses and memory retaining abilities of past pulse activity.

By optically pumping the micropillar with strategically timed 794 nm diode-array and 800 nm titanium-sapphire laser pulses, the device has been shown to exhibit required refractory period behaviour before a subsequent neuron-like discharge—or ‘firing’—is experienced. In addition to this, the refractory period was found to last in the picosecond instead of millisecond range—as found in humans—making the technique substantially faster than currently existing biological life forms.

It can be imagined that future developments of this technology could be concatenated to form highly efficient neural network systems. However, Barbay points out that due to the physical limitations of current components, coupled with the sheer number of neurons that would need to be replicated, an artificial analogy anywhere near resembling the processing functionality of a human brain is “very far” from being realised.

Further reading:

American Physical Society: ‘Semi Conductors get nervy’

Physics World: ‘Laser Mimics Biological Neurons Using Light’


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Paul Hattle

As a strong advocate for science and learning, I am a passionate supporter of the 'Campaign for Science and Engineering' (CaSE) Fellow of the 'Royal Astronomical Society' (RAS) Associate Member of the 'Institute of Physics' (IOP) & 'The Institute of Scientific and Technical Communicators' (ISTC)

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1 Response

  1. Avatar m88 says:

    Whoa all kinds of superb knowledge.

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