Researchers receive NSF grant to advance neuromorphic computing
Rochester Institute of Technology researchers will use photonic integrated circuit technology to improve the processing speed and energy consumption of brain-inspired computing techniques.
The university has received $422,733 from the National Science Foundation for “PIC: Hybrid Silicon Electronic Photonic Integrated Neuromorphic Networks,” a multiyear project to advance neuromorphic computing using photonic circuits.
Neuromorphic computing, sometimes referred to as brain-inspired computing, is a sub-field of artificial intelligence where the physical, neural network architecture and its complex processing mechanisms are inspired by the learning mechanisms in the human brain. This type of architecture is currently developed using electronic integrated circuits, and the research team will be applying similar methods using photonic devices.
The new, neuromorphic system will leverage the advantages of both electronics and photonics to achieve higher performance and speed for devices as well as lower energy consumption. Photonic implementations of neural networks offer an advantage because light can easily perform computational tasks that are traditionally challenging to do in electronic-only implementations, said Stefan Preble, who will co-lead the research team.
In order to construct the neural networks for photonic chips, the team will build on known capabilities of electronics to overcome the challenges of establishing better memory and amplification. This hybrid approach, where electronics and photonics would be integrated together, enables the investigation of, and solutions for, the broadest class of problems in the evolution of improved photonic chips.
Project outcomes could impact applications for autonomous systems, imaging and vision systems, information networks, cybersecurity, robotics and other high bandwidth applications.
Aspects of the RIT project will take place at the university, with contributions from researchers in its Future Photon Initiative—a cross-disciplinary team that collaborates with external university groups, industry and national laboratories to develop and commercialize new photonic device technology—and CHAI, the Center for Human-Aware Artificial Intelligence, an interdisciplinary artificial intelligence research team at the university. Additional work will take place at the AIM Photonics Test, Assembly and Packaging facility located in Rochester and at the AIM Photonics site at SUNY Polytechnic Institute in Albany.
RIT is one of three universities within the AIM Photonics organization to receive recent NSF funding for collaborative projects. Others include:
- The University of California-San Diego, which will prototype and test miniaturized and mobile platform-embedded spectrometers.
- University of Delaware researchers who are developing new heterogeneous manufacturing processes for photonic devices using several new materials.