Light-based processors, called photonic processors, enable computers to complete complex calculations at incredible speeds. A team of researchers has examined the potential of photonic processors for artificial intelligence applications.
The results demonstrated for the first time that these devices can process information rapidly and in parallel, something that today’s electronic chips cannot do.
The fast, efficient processing the researchers sought is ideal for applications like self-driving vehicles, which need to process the data they sense from multiple inputs as quickly as possible. Photonic processors can also support applications in cloud computing, medical imaging, and more.
The researchers combined phase-change materials—the storage material used, for example, on DVDs—and photonic structures to store data in a nonvolatile manner without requiring a continual energy supply. This study is also the first to combine these optical memory cells with a chip-based frequency comb as a light source, which is what allowed them to calculate on 16 different wavelengths simultaneously.
In the paper, the researchers used the technology to create a convolutional neural network that would recognize handwritten numbers. They found that the method granted never-before-seen data rates and computing densities.
The research was conducted by an international team of researchers, including University of Pittsburg, the University of Münster in Germany, the Universities of Oxford and Exeter in England, the École Polytechnique Fédérale (EPFL) in Lausanne, Switzerland, and the IBM Research Laboratory in Zurich. (TechExplore)
The work has been published in Nature.