Stanford bioengineers develop superfast energy efficient chips

Stanford bioengineers have developed a chip which is 9,000 times faster and uses significantly less power than a typical PC.

The Neurogrid circuit board can simulate more neurons and synapses than other brain mimics on the power it takes to run a tablet.

Kwabena Boahen, associate professor of bioengineering at Stanford, in an article for the Proceedings of the IEEE, said that the brain was a better model for computing.

Boahen and his team have developed Neurogrid, a circuit board consisting of 16 custom-designed “Neurocore” chips. Together these 16 chips can simulate one million neurons and billions of synaptic connections. The team designed these chips with power efficiency in mind. Their strategy was to enable certain synapses to share hardware circuits. The Neurogrid is the size of a tablet and will probably end up controlling a humanoid robot.

The downside is that you have to know how the brain works to program Neurocore, and the next stage is to create a neurocompiler so that you would not need to know anything about synapses and neurons to able to use one of these.

Million-neuron Neurogrid circuit boards cost about $40,000. Boahen believes dramatic cost reductions are possible. Neurogrid is based on 16 Neurocores, each of which supports 65,536 neurons. Those chips were made using 15-year-old fabrication technologies.

By switching to modern manufacturing processes and fabricating the chips in large volumes, he could cut a Neurocore’s cost 100-fold – which means you could have a million-neuron board for $400 a throw.