IBM’s Brain-Like Chip Can Revolutionize AI Energy Efficiency

Written by Muhammad Muneeb Ur Rehman ·  2 min read >

In a groundbreaking development, global technology leader IBM has unveiled a prototype of a revolutionary “brain-like” chip, which holds the potential to usher in a new era of energy-efficient artificial intelligence (AI). This innovation addresses growing concerns over the environmental impact of energy-intensive AI systems, paving the way for more efficient and sustainable technological advancements.

At the heart of this innovation lies the recognition that the human brain achieves remarkable performance while consuming minimal power. Scientist Thanos Vasilopoulos, stationed at IBM’s research lab in Zurich, Switzerland, explains that this superior energy efficiency could facilitate the execution of large and complex workloads within power-constrained environments, such as cars, mobile phones, and cameras. Moreover, the deployment of these chips by cloud providers could substantially reduce energy costs and the carbon footprint associated with AI data centers.

Key to the chip’s energy-efficient operation are components known as memristors, or memory resistors. Unlike traditional digital chips that store information in binary 0s and 1s, memristors are analog components capable of retaining a spectrum of values. This breakthrough in technology draws parallels to the human brain’s synaptic connections, further bridging the gap between biological and artificial intelligence. Professor Ferrante Neri from the University of Surrey aptly describes this approach as “nature-inspired computing,” as it mimics the brain’s intricate functions.

Memristors exhibit the ability to “remember” their electric history, akin to the behavior of synapses in a biological system. When interconnected, these memristors create networks reminiscent of the neural pathways in the human brain. 

The potential of this innovation is immense, with the tantalizing prospect of witnessing the emergence of brain-like chips in the near future. However, Neri cautions that while promising, the journey toward memristor-based computing is not devoid of challenges. Overcoming obstacles like material costs and manufacturing complexities will be pivotal for widespread adoption.

IBM’s prototype chip amalgamates both analog and digital elements, making it compatible with existing AI systems. This adaptability is crucial, as many contemporary smartphones feature AI chips designed to enhance tasks such as image processing. Apple’s incorporation of a “neural engine” within the iPhone exemplifies this trend. Looking ahead, IBM envisions a future where chips similar to their prototype could revolutionize the energy efficiency of devices like phones and cars, extending battery life and enabling innovative applications.

Beyond personal devices, the potential applications of IBM’s brain-like chips span the realm of AI data centers. Replacing traditional chips with energy-efficient alternatives could not only save substantial amounts of electricity but also mitigate the water consumption required for cooling power-hungry data centers. These data centers are known for their immense energy consumption, rivaling that of medium-sized towns.

While the implications of IBM’s breakthrough are undeniably promising, experts like Professor James Davenport from the University of Bath emphasize the complexity of the task ahead. Davenport characterizes the chip as a “possible first step,” acknowledging that the road to fully harnessing its potential will involve overcoming various technical and practical challenges. However, the very fact that this prototype exists signals a transformative shift in the landscape of AI technology.

IBM’s unveiling of a prototype brain-like chip marks a pivotal moment in the evolution of artificial intelligence. By drawing inspiration from the human brain’s energy-efficient functioning, the chip holds the potential to revolutionize AI systems across multiple industries. The integration of memristors and analog elements, combined with digital components, positions this innovation as a bridge between cutting-edge research and real-world application. While challenges remain on the path to widespread adoption, the journey toward more energy-efficient, sustainable, and advanced AI systems has been irrevocably set in motion.

Written by Muhammad Muneeb Ur Rehman
Muneeb is a full-time News/Tech writer at He is a passionate follower of the IT progression of Pakistan and the world and wants to educate the people of Pakistan about tech affairs. His favorite part about being a tech writer is tech reviews and giving an honest and clear verdict to his readers. Contact Muneeb on his LinkedIn at: Profile