Intrinsic Dynamics of Amorphous Semiconductors and its Application in Neuromorphic Hardware

Logo of the ERC-project NEURAMORPH Martin Salinga

After decades of perfecting the established way of computing, it is now evident that the fundamental logic of today’s computers will prevent them from ever reaching the efficiency of neural networks as found in nature. Neuromorphic hardware promises a leap forward by following the inherent working principles of biological neural networks.

In very-large-scale integrated neuromorphic circuits incorporating an immense number of artificial neurons, the even much larger number of synapses poses the challenge of imitating especially the synaptic functionality in a most compact way. Over the last years, various memristive devices have been proposed to represent the weight of a synapse, determining how well electrical spikes are transmitted from one neuron to another. Existing attempts to achieve spike-timing-dependent plasticity, however, possess inherent problems.

The NEURAMORPH project aims to develop a simple and compact circuit element to modify the strength of synaptic connections between artificial neurons. The dynamics of electrical excitability intrinsic to the employed amorphous semiconductors will naturally be able to mimic spike-timing-dependent plasticity. For full control over the properties of these synaptic access elements, a fundamental understanding of the relaxation processes in such amorphous materials is imperative.

To this end, in this project we will perform physical experiments and computer simulations to elucidate the relationship between elemental composition, structural dynamics and changing electrical excitability. Finally, as proof of concept, a prototype of a neuromorphic chip will be developed incorporating the new kind of synaptic device.

The European Reseach Council (ERC) is funding this project led by Martin Salinga with a starting grant of 1.5 million Euros. Starting in fall 2015 this five-year research project gives post-doctoral researchers and PhD-students the opportunity to develop their skills in an interdisciplinary environment. Under job openings you find further information about what profiles of researchers we are looking for to complete our team.