Highly Efficient Neuromorphic Computing Systems With Emerging Nonvolatile Memories

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Emerging nonvolatile memory based hardware neuromorphic computing systems have enabled the implementation of general vector-matrix multiplication in a manner to fuse computation and memory at the same physical location. However, there remain three major challenges in designing such neuromorphic computing systems for high efficiency in a large scale integration: (a) the analog/digital interface circuits dominate the power and area in such mixed-signal designs; (b) they are highly customized and can only compute a class of neural network models once developed; (c) non-ideal device properties largely forfeit the benefit in terms of computational efficiency.

Designs of mixed-signal interface circuitry have been extensively studied, but a holistic design approach regarding very-large-scale integration is overlooked for emerging nonvolatile memory based neuromorphic computing systems involving circuit design, microarchitecture and hardware/software co-simulation. The realization of such neuromorphic computing platforms requires: (a) efficient interface circuits as well as execution models; (b) appropriate reconfigurability at runtime for different neural network architectures; and (c) reliability enhancement methods to resist imperfect fabrication and tough working environment.

Motivated by these demands, this dissertation first introduces an implementation scheme of neuromorphic computing system that uses emerging nonvolatile memory as synapses and CMOS integrated circuits as neurons. To save the energy consumption of data communication, the neuron circuits are improved upon conventional integrated and first neuron circuits for better current-to-spike conversion efficiency. Trade-offs between throughput and latency are investigated and validated by a prototype 64Kb Resistive Random Access Memory based in-memory computing processing engine.

Next, this dissertation proposes a type of fully-memristive neuromorphic computing system architecture that incorporates Mott memristor as the neuron circuit. The small footprint and intrinsic bionic dynamics of emerging memory-based neuron circuits significantly reduce design complexity. This dissertation investigates and models the randomness that Mott memristors inflict. By suppressing it during inference and exploiting it during learning, the proposed system is optimized for the balance of inference accuracy and training efficiency.

Moreover, this dissertation advances the reconfigurability of emerging memory based neuromorphic computing systems by presenting a paradigm that supports post-fabrication switching between spiking and non-spiking neural network model execution. An improved version of time-to-first-spike temporal encoding is proposed to use single spikes in accelerating the execution speed.

Finally, this dissertation presents hardware/software codesign techniques for the implementation of neuromorphic computing systems with emerging nonvolatile memories. A hardware/software co-simulation flow is developed. And based on this, this dissertation also proposes a closed-loop design to enhance the weight stability to resist the read disturbance.

In summary, the dissertation tackles important problems in designing neuromorphic computing systems with emerging nonvolatile memories. The outcome of this research is expected not only to pave the way for realizing highly efficiency artificial intelligence hardware, but also shorten the product development cycle.





Yan, Bonan (2020). Highly Efficient Neuromorphic Computing Systems With Emerging Nonvolatile Memories. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/21451.


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