Milestone reached to break the von Neumann bottleneck


Electronically reprogrammable photonic circuits based on phase-change chalcogenides present an avenue to resolve the von-Neumann bottleneck; however, implementation of such hybrid photonic–electronic processing has not achieved computational success. Here, we achieve this milestone by demonstrating an in-memory photonic–electronic dot-product engine, one that decouples electronic programming of phase-change materials (PCMs) and photonic computation. Specifically, we develop non-volatile electronically reprogrammable PCM memory cells with a record-high 4-bit weight encoding, the lowest energy consumption per unit modulation depth (1.7 nJ/dB) for Erase operation (crystallization), and a high switching contrast (158.5%) using non-resonant silicon-on-insulator waveguide microheater devices. This enables us to perform parallel multiplications for image processing with a superior contrast-to-noise ratio (≥87.36) that leads to an enhanced computing accuracy (standard deviation σ ≤ 0.007). An in-memory hybrid computing system is developed in hardware for convolutional processing for recognizing images from the MNIST database with inferencing accuracies of 86% and 87%.

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