Some of the things GST can do is terrifying.The material that lets us record on DVDs has a far more tantalising property: it can mimic the nerve cells of the brain and the junctions between them. The discovery could lead to the development of brain-like computers that, crucially, operate at ultra-low power levels.
A brain-like computer is one that can learn and adapt without external programming. Such an ability would allow machines to become far better at tasks like face and speech recognition. They could also process and store data in the same location - just as nerve cells do. Conventional computing loses efficiency by keeping these functions separate.
Now two research groups have built artificial nerve cells, or neurons, and synapses - the junctions between them - using an alloy known as GST, an acronym of the symbols for its components: germanium, antimony and tellurium.
Just goes to show the power of phase change I reckon.