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Nanophotonic cavity based synapse for scalable photonic neural networks

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posted on 2023-01-12, 15:11 authored by Aashu Jha, Chaoran Huang, Thomas Ferriera deLima, Hsuan-Tung Peng, Bhavin Shastri, Paul R. Prucnal
The bandwidth and energy demands of neural networks has spurred tremendous interest in developing novel neuromorphic hardware, including photonic integrated circuits. Although an optical waveguide can accommodate hundreds of channels with THz bandwidth, the channel count of photonic systems is always bottlenecked by the devices within. In WDM-based photonic neural networks, the synapses, i.e. network interconnections, are typically realized by microring resonators (MRRs), where the WDM channel count (N) is bounded by the free-spectral range of the MRRs. For typical Si MRRs, we estimate N <= 30 within the C-band. This not only restrains the aggregate throughput of the neural network but also makes applications with high input dimensions unfeasible. We experimentally demonstrate that photonic crystal nanobeam based synapses can be FSR-free within C-band, eliminating the bound on channel count. This increases data throughput as well as enables applications with high-dimensional inputs like natural language processing and high resolution image processing. In addition, the smaller physical footprint of photonic crystal nanobeam cavities offers higher tuning energy efficiency and a higher compute density than MRRs. Nanophotonic cavity based synapse thus offers a path towards realizing highly scalable photonic neural networks.

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