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Considerations for neuromorphic supercomputing in semiconducting and superconducting optoelectronic hardware



Bryce Primavera, Jeff Shainline


Any large-scale neuromorphic system striving for complexity at the level of the human brain and beyond will need to be co-optimized for communication and computation. Such reasoning leads to the proposal for optoelectronic neuro- morphic platforms that leverage the complementary properties of optics and electronics. Starting from the conjecture that future large-scale neuromorphic systems will utilize integrated photonics and ber optics for communication in conjunction with analog electronics for computation, we consider two possible paths towards achieving this vision. The rst is a semiconductor platform based on analog CMOS circuits and waveguide-integrated photodiodes. The second is a superconducting approach that utilizes Josephson junctions and waveguide-integrated superconducting single-photon detectors. We discuss available devices, assess scaling potential, and provide a list of key metrics and demonstrations for each platform. Ultimately, both platforms hold potential, but their development will diverge in important respects. Semiconductor systems bene t from a robust fabrication ecosystem and can build on extensive progress made in purely electronic neuromorphic computing, but will require III-V light-source integration with elec- tronics at an unprecedented scale, further advances in ultra-low capacitance photodiodes, and success from emerging memory technologies. In contrast, superconducting systems place near theoretically minimum burdens on light-sources (a tremendous boon to one of the most speculative aspects of either platform) and provide new opportunities for in- tegrated, high-endurance synaptic memory. However, superconducting optoelectronic systems will also contend with interfacing low-voltage electronic circuits to semiconductor light-sources, the serial biasing of superconducting devices on an unprecedented scale, a less mature fabrication ecosystem, and cryogenic infrastructure.
Frontiers in Neuroscience


Primavera, B. and Shainline, J. (2021), Considerations for neuromorphic supercomputing in semiconducting and superconducting optoelectronic hardware, Frontiers in Neuroscience, [online],, (Accessed July 14, 2024)


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Created September 6, 2021, Updated November 29, 2022