Darwin: a neuromorphic hardware co-processor based on Spiking Neural Networks

Shen J C, Ma D, Gu Z H, et al

Sci China Inf Sci, 2016, 59(2): 023401

Broadly speaking, the goal of neuromorphic engineering is to build computer systems that mimic the brain. Spiking Neural Network (SNN) is a type of biologically-inspired neural networks that perform information processing based on discrete-time spikes, different from traditional Artificial Neural Network (ANN). Hardware implementation of SNNs is necessary for achieving high-performance and low-power. We present the Darwin Neural Processing Unit (NPU), a neuromorphic hardware co-processor based on SNN implemented with digitallogic, supporting a maximum of 2048 neurons, 20482 = 4194304 synapses, and 15 possible synaptic delays. The Darwin NPU was fabricated by standard 180 nm CMOS technology with an area size of 5 × 5 mm2 and 70 MHz clock frequency at the worst case. It consumes 0.84 mW/MHz with 1.8 V power supply for typical applications. Two prototype applications are used to demonstrate the performance and efficiency of the hardware implementation.
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