News Column

Purdue Prof. Leading DoD Work into 'Neuromorphic' Computing

August 19, 2014



WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind., Aug. 19 -- Purdue University issued the following news release:

A Purdue University professor is among 10 researchers named National Security Science and Engineering Faculty Fellows to pursue advanced technologies with potential applications for the U.S. Department of Defense and the commercial sector.

Kaushik Roy, the Edward G. Tiedemann Jr. Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, will use his grant to perform research into "neuromorphic computing"

Neuromorphic computing is not intended to replace conventional general-purpose computer hardware, based on complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor transistors, or CMOS. Instead, it is expected to work in conjunction with CMOS-based computing.

"There are certain things CMOS general-purpose computers do very well, such as complex mathematical computations," Roy said. "However, there are other tasks CMOS has great difficulty with, such as facial recognition, which the human brain can easily accomplish."

Computers based on neuromorphic computing with "spin-neurons," proposed by his research group to mimic biological neurons and synapses, might be 10 to 100 times better at certain tasks such as handwriting, image and facial recognition, compared with state-of-the-art CMOS technology.

"It's a concept that is inspired by how the brain works," Roy said. "We're talking about a whole different class of computing."

Up to $3 million of research support will be granted to each fellow for up to five years. The fellows conduct basic research in core science and engineering disciplines that underpin future Department of Defense technology development, according to a department news release.

The program also aims to foster long-term relationships among the fellows, their students, and the Department of Defense.

The Purdue neuromorphic computing research focuses on the development of future computing platforms based on "spintronics" technologies.

Conventional computers use the presence and absence of an electric charge to represent ones and zeroes in a binary code needed to carry out computations. Spintronics, however, uses the "spin state" of electrons to represent ones and zeros.

In magnets, the outermost electrons of an atom can be switched from a spin of "up" to "down," representing a new spintronics technology for processing information. Using spintronics, researchers are beginning to design neuromorphic devices that resemble a brain's neurons. The devices will consist of nanomagnets interconnected with metallic wires.

Spintronics could bring circuits that resemble biological neurons and synapses in a compact design not possible with CMOS circuits. Whereas it would take many CMOS devices to mimic a neuron or synapse, it might take only a single spintronic device, possibly allowing for a compact, energy-efficient technology.

Purdue also is part of a Center for Spintronic Materials, Interfaces and Novel Architecture (C-SPIN), one of six centers funded by the Semiconductor Research Corporation and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. C-SPIN, announced in 2013, is supported with a $29 million grant over five years and is led by the University of Minnesota.

The Purdue portion of the C-SPIN research is led by Roy; Supriyo Datta, the Thomas Duncan Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering; and Anand Raghunathan, professor of electrical and computer engineering.

Purdue's role is to design and model the devices and architectures, or how devices are assembled into a functioning processor. The Purdue team will receive around $2.3 million for the research, which involves several graduate students.

TNS 30TagarumaMar-140820-4833660 30TagarumaMar


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