A new project from Caterina Lamuta, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Iowa, will seek to determine if low-cost geopolymers, ceramic materials similar to cement, can be used to develop computer components for data storage or that impact speed improvements. The project, supported by the United States Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR), will provide the theoretical background to start using geopolymers as advanced ceramics for high-tech applications.
“Geopolymers have always been considered traditional ceramics with no interesting or high-tech properties,” said Lamuta. “We have found that these geopolymers have unique electro-mechanical properties and can remember the current that flows through them.”
Geopolymers are also unique because they are inexpensive and can be produced at room temperature without requiring the expensive equipment that is usually required for advanced ceramics. Lamuta has theorized that the ion channels found in geopolymers function like biological synapses found in the human brain, allowing the materials to respond identically when a current flows through them.
“This study will provide novel scientific knowledge and significant contributions in several fields ranging from physics and electro-chemistry to material science, engineering, and the young field of neuromorphic computing,” said Lamuta. “The results of this project will be a starting point for the development of next generation low-cost geopolymers-based smart devices and sensors.”
Lamuta’s three-year project, “Ion channels in geopolymers: artificial synapses with unique electro-mechanical properties,” is part of AFOSR’s Materials with Extreme Properties program.