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A surface-normal photodetector as nonlinear activation function in diffractive optical neural networks

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posted on 2023-05-09, 16:01 authored by Farshid Ashtiani, Mohamad Hossein Idjadi, Ting-Chen Hu, Stefano Grillanda, David Neilson, Mark Earnshaw, Mark Cappuzzo, Rose Kopf, Alaric Tate, Andrea Blanco-Redondo
Optical neural networks (ONNs) enable high speed parallel and energy efficient processing compared to conventional digital electronic counterparts. However, realizing large scale systems is an open problem. Among various integrated and non-integrated ONNs, free-space diffractive ONNs benefit from a large number of pixels of spatial light modulators to realize millions of neurons. However, a significant fraction of computation time and energy is consumed by the nonlinear activation function that is typically implemented using a camera sensor. Here, we propose a novel surface-normal photodetector (SNPD) with a nonlinear response to replace the camera sensor that enables about three orders of magnitude faster (5.7 us response time) and more energy efficient (less than 10 nW/pixel) response. Direct efficient vertical optical coupling, polarization insensitivity, inherent nonlinearity with no control electronics, low optical power requirements, and the possibility of implementing large scale arrays make the SNPD a promising nonlinear activation function for diffractive ONNs. To show the applicability, successful classification simulation of MNIST and Fashion MNIST datasets using the measured response of SNPD with accuracy comparable to that of an ideal ReLU function are demonstrated.



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