Engineering Taught by Nature: Biologically Inspired Electronic Systems

Martin Trefzer
Department of Electronics, University of York

3:15pm-4:15pm, 3 November 2016
James Nasmyth Building, Room JN301


The increasing versatility, performance, compactness and power efficiency of today's electronic systems is achieved by pushing technology to its physical limits: systems are increasing in size and complexity comprising thousands of subsystems made of billions of devices, requiring sophisticated programming and control; the devices themselves become smaller and smaller and have reached the atomic scale, which leads to stochastic variations when fabricating them. This makes components more noisy and unreliable and designing reliable systems extremely challenging. In this respect, technological systems are far behind biological organisms which have long since accomplished the feat of not only operating reliably with highly variable components, but also maintaining and tuning themselves in changing environments, when faults occur or they are otherwise perturbed. Biological mechanisms enabling this have co-evolved with the organisms, hence, are perfectly adapted to the requirements of their embodiment. In this context, evolutionary hardware is about hardware that offers the capability to change its structure and behaviour in order to automatically optimise its operation for a specific task or environment, taking inspiration from biological organisms with natural evolution as Nature's guiding optimisation principle. The talk will give examples of hardware systems, biological systems, and how the former can learn from the latter.


Host: Michael Lones