The success of neuromorphic computing depends on hardware capabilities

Day by day, technology is getting closer to the world of high-speed computing with artificial intelligence. But is the world equipped with the right hardware to handle the workload of new AI technological advances?

“The brain-inspired codes of the AI ​​revolution run mostly on conventional silicon computer architectures that they weren’t designed for,” explains Erica Carlson, 150.the seventh Anniversary Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Purdue University.

A joint effort between physicists at Purdue University, the University of California San Diego (USCD) and the École Supérieure de Physique et de Chimie Industrielles (ESPCI) in Paris, France, believe they may have discovered a way to make the hardware work again. By mimicking the synapses of the human brain. They published their findings, “Spatially distributed ramp reversal memory in VO2in Advanced Electronic Materials, featured on the back cover of the October 2023 issue.

New paradigms in hardware will be necessary to manage the complexity of tomorrow’s computing advances. “Neuromorphic architectures hold promise for lower-power processors, advanced computing, fundamentally different computing modes, native learning, and advanced pattern recognition,” said Carlson, the research’s chief theoretical scientist.

Neuromorphic architecture basically boils down to computer chips that mimic the behavior of the brain. Neurons are cells in the brain that transmit information. Neurons have small gaps at their ends that allow signals to pass from one neuron to the next, called synapses. In biological brains, these synapses encode memory. The team of scientists concluded that vanadium oxides hold great promise for neuromorphic computing because they can be used to build artificial neurons and synapses.

“The mismatch between hardware and software is the source of the very high energy costs of training, for example, large language models like ChatGPT,” Carlson explains. In contrast, neuromorphic architectures promise lower energy consumption by mimicking the main components of the brain: neurons and synapses. While silicon is good at storing memory, the material doesn’t easily lend itself to neuron-like behavior. Effective neuromorphic hardware solutions require research into materials with completely different behavior than silicon—materials that can naturally mimic synapses and neurons. “In contrast, only a handful of materials, most of them quantum materials, have the proven ability to do both.”

The team relied on a recently discovered type of non-volatile memory that is driven by repeated partial temperature cycling through an insulator-to-metal transition. This memory was discovered in vanadium oxides.

“Only a few quantum materials are good candidates for future neuromorphic devices, i.e. simulating artificial synapses and neurons,” explains Alexandre Zimmers, senior experimental scientist from the Sorbonne University and École Supérieure de Physique et de Chimie Industrielles, Paris. For the first time, in one of them, vanadium dioxide, we can optically see what in the material acts as an artificial synapse. We find that memory accumulates throughout the sample, opening up new opportunities for how and where to control this property. opens it.

“The microscopic movies show that, surprisingly, the repeated advance and retreat of the metallic and insulating domains causes the memory to accumulate throughout the sample, not just at the boundaries of the domains,” explains Carlson. “Memory appears as a local temperature shift where the material transforms from an insulator to a metal on heating or from a metal to an insulator on cooling. We propose that these changes in local transition temperature are due to the preferential diffusion of defects. accumulate into a point. Metal spheres that intertwine through the insulation as the material is cycled through the transfer section.”

Now that the team has determined that vanadium oxides are possible candidates for future neuromorphic devices, they plan to move forward with the next phase of their research.

“Now that we’ve developed a way to see inside this neuromorphic material, we can make changes locally and see the effects of, say, ion bombardment on the material’s surface,” Zimmers explains. This can allow us to direct the electrical current through specific regions in the sample where the memory effect is maximal.

About the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Purdue University

Purdue’s Department of Physics and Astronomy has a rich and long history dating back to 1904. Our faculty and students are exploring nature at all scales, from the subatomic to the macro and everything in between. With an excellent and diverse community of faculty, postdocs and students pushing new scientific frontiers, we offer a dynamic learning environment, an inclusive research community and an engaging network of researchers.

Physics and Astronomy is one of seven departments in Purdue University’s College of Science. World-class research is conducted in astrophysics, atomic and molecular optics, accelerator mass spectrometry, biophysics, condensed matter physics, quantum information science, particle and nuclear physics. Our state-of-the-art facilities are in the Physics Building, but our researchers are also engaged in interdisciplinary work in the Discovery Park area at Purdue, particularly the Birck Nanotechnology Center and the Bindley Life Sciences Center. We also participate in global research, including at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, many national laboratories (such as Argonne National Laboratory, Brookhaven National Laboratory, Fermilab, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Stanford Linear Accelerator, etc.), the James Webb Space Telescope. and several observatories around the world.

About Purdue University

Purdue University is a public research institution with excellence in scale. Ranked among the top 10 public universities and with two colleges in the top 4 in the United States, Purdue discovers and disseminates knowledge of unparalleled quality and scale. More than 105,000 students study at Purdue across majors and locations, including 50,000 on campus at the West Lafayette campus. Committed to affordability and accessibility, Purdue’s main campus has frozen tuition for 12 consecutive years. See how Purdue never stopped pursuing its next big leap, including its first comprehensive urban campus in Indianapolis, the new Mitchell E. Daniels, Jr., and Purdue Computers don’t stop at https://www.purdue. Edu/President/Strategic-Initiatives.


Erika Carlson, 150the seventh Anniversary Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Purdue University

Alexandre Zimmers, Associate Professor, Sorbonne University and School of Physical and Industrial Chemistry, Paris, France

Written by Cheryl Pierce, Communications Specialist

Index: S. Basak, Y. Sun, M. Alzate Banguero, P. Salev, IK Schuller, L. Aigouy, EW Carlson, A. Zimmers, “Spatially distributed ramp inverse memory in VO2”, Advanced Electronic Materials aelm.202300085 (2023).

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