ars technica: IBM has already created a population of 500 of these artificial neurons and used them to process a signal in a brain-like (neuromorphic) way. by Sebastian Anthony
'This breakthrough is particularly notable because the phase-change neurons are fashioned out of well-understood materials that can scale down to a few nanometres, and because they are capable of firing at high speed but with low energy requirements. Also important is the neurons' stochasticity—that is, their ability to always produce slightly different, random results, like biological neurons.
'The artificial neurons are made from well-understood materials that have good performance characteristics, last a long time (trillions of switching cycles), and can be fabricated/integrated on leading-edge nodes (the chip pictured above was fabbed at 90nm, but the research paper mentions the possibility of 14nm). The phase-change devices presented in this research are already pretty small—squares that are about 100 nanometres across.
'These phase-change neurons are the closest we've come to creating artificial devices that behave like biological neurons, perhaps leading us towards efficient, massively parallel computer designs that apply neuromorphic approaches to decision-making and processing sensory information. IBM says that their new work is complementary to research being carried out into memristor-based synapses, too.'
"Stochastic phase-change neurons" by Tomas Tuma, et al, here