RIT awarded National Science Foundation grant

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Source: Monroe County Post

Researchers at Rochester Institute of Technology will use photonic integrated circuit technology to improve the processing speed and energy consumption of brain-inspired computing techniques. 

Photonics, an emerging technology with wide-ranging potential, is essential to the nation’s manufacturing capabilities in areas such as high-speed data and telecommunications.

The university 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 subfield 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 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.

“Electronic-only hardware, such as CMOS — a widely used type of semiconductor — is not suitable for high bandwidth applications critical to our modern information world. But the internet is powered by photonic technologies — lasers, electro-optic modulator and photodetectors — because of light’s high bandwidth, speed and low energy consumption. This project aims to realize high performance neural networks using light,” said Preble, professor of microsystems engineering in RIT’s Kate Gleason College of Engineering. 

He will be joined by Dhireesha Kudithipudi, professor of computer engineering and an expert in neuromorphic computing and artificial intelligence applications.
To construct the neural networks for photonic chips, the team will build upon 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.

RIT is one of three universities within the AIM Photonics organization to receive recent NSF funding for collaborative projects.

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