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Photonic Neuron Project To Boost Calculation Speed

Question asked by kunal in #Coffee Room on Jul 19, 2011
kunal · Jul 19, 2011
Rank D1 - MASTER
Defense contractor and aviation czar Lockheed Martin is set to start a new project in collaboration with Princeton University. The project, called the Photonic Neuron, will see seven undergraduate students work with the experts at Lockheed Martin labs to create some amazingly fast optic fiber devices. The new technology will involve photons to make rapid fire calculations in infinitesimal small time. These new fiber optic based neuron like devices will not use the conventional electrons and will be billion times faster than the human brain cells. The project aims to combine the fields of design engineering, optics and biology to make computational circuits with awesome computing capabilities.

The Photonic Neuron Project

With the success of this collaboration, you can expect gadgets or computer chips that will enable spontaneous and accurate decisions in extreme situations. For example, it can predict the damage done to a jet and immediately instruct the pilot to eject safely in time. Or it can instantly track the whereabouts and future trail of a terrorist as soon as it catches a radio signal. It can do lads of mathematical and statistical calculations required during scanning, disease diagnosis, etc.

This cool project is being sponsored by Lockheed Martin and Princeton's Stuart M. Essig '83 and Erin S. Enright '82 Fund for Innovation in Engineering and Neuroscience. Paul Prucnal, a professor of electrical engineering at Princeton, and David Rosenbluth, a neuroscientist and principle engineer at Lockheed Martin's Advance Technology Laboratory, in Cherry Hill, N.J are the lead scientists of the research team. The main objective of the team is to eliminate the time required for electrons to travel through wires in the circuit. The photons used for calculations and data transfer in this next- gen technology will travel at the speed of light with the help of fiber optic cables. The thing that makes this different from rest of fiber optic communication systems is that in the conventional systems, the photon information is converted back into electrical signal for decoding. In the photonic neurons, however, the transfer, storage, encoding and decoding is done in the photons only and no need of electrons is there.

The above fact highlights the photonic part of this research. Well, the neurobiologists also play an important role in the project. The scientists have studied the quick response human brain cells. Now, they are trying to implement similar features in artificial neuron-like computer chips that will be many times faster than our gray matter. The neural circuits in our brain are excellent decision making centers and the different cells communicate exceptionally well especially in times of danger. All the central and peripheral neurons are well connected to each other and they communicate with the help of spike-like electrochemical pulses called action potentials. As per the pattern of the spikes, the receiving neuron decides its action. The neural communications make it possible for you to make split-second decisions. These do or die situation responses can help the researchers develop a faster and smarter system that will be a hybrid of the analog and digital devices.

When Prucnal and Rosenbluth first got this crazy idea of trying to mix fiber-optic signal processing and neuroscience, they observed that the mathematical equations used to model neural and fiber-optic networks used different variables, but they were very similar in their overall nature. So, let us hope that this project brings super fast gadgets with brain like decision making sense.

Source: Physorg.com Image: Princeton.edu Posted in: #Coffee Room

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