Robotics and wearable devices might soon be smarter with the addition of a stretchy, wearable synaptic transistor developed by Penn State engineers. Working like neurons in the brain to send signals to some cells and inhibit others to enhance and weaken the devices’ memories, the team designed the synaptic transistor to be integrated into robots or wearables and use AI to optimize functions. They published the details in Nature Electronics.
They designed the artificial neurons in the device to perform like neurons in the ventral tegmental area, a tiny segment of the human brain located in the uppermost part of the brain stem. Excitatory neurotransmitters trigger the activity of other neurons and are associated with enhancing memories, while inhibitory neurotransmitters reduce the activity of other neurons and are associated with weakening memories.
To model soft, stretchy biological tissues, researchers used stretchable bilayer semiconductor materials to fabricate the device, allowing it to stretch and twist. Conventional transistors are rigid and will break when deformed.