Christof Teuscher

Date of Award

Winter 3-11-2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.) in Electrical and Computer Engineering


Electrical and Computer Engineering

Physical Description

1 online resource (xxi, 110 pages)


Computer architecture -- Design, Computer architecture -- Evaluation, Associative storage -- Design, Memristors




Calculating a sparse code for signals with high dimensionality, such as high-resolution images, takes substantial time to compute on a traditional computer architecture. Memristors present the opportunity to combine storage and computing elements into a single, compact device, drastically reducing the area required to perform these calculations. This work focused on the analysis of two existing sparse coding architectures, one of which utilizes memristors, as well as the design of a new, third architecture that employs a memristive crossbar. These architectures implement either a non-spiking or spiking variety of sparse coding based on the Locally Competitive Algorithm (LCA) introduced by Rozell et al. in 2008. Each architecture receives an arbitrary number of input lines and drives an arbitrary number of output lines. Training of the dictionary used for the sparse code was implemented through external control signals that approximate Oja's rule. The resulting designs were capable of representing input in real-time: no resets would be needed between frames of a video, for instance, though some settle time would be needed. The spiking architecture proposed is novel, emphasizing simplicity to achieve lower power than existing designs.

The architectures presented were tested for their ability to encode and reconstruct 8 x 8 patches of natural images. The proposed network reconstructed patches with a normalized, root-mean-square error of 0.13, while a more complicated CMOS-only approach yielded 0.095, and a non-spiking approach yielded 0.074. Several outputs competing for representation of the input was shown to improve reconstruction quality and preserve more subtle components in the final encoding; the proposed algorithm lacks this feature. Steps to address this were proposed for future work by scaling input spikes according to the current expected residual, without adding much complexity. The architectures were also tested with the MNIST digit database, passing a sparse code onto a basic classifier. The proposed architecture scored 81% on this test, a CMOS-only spiking variant scored 76%, and the non-spiking algorithm scored 85%. Power calculations were made for each design and compared against other publications. The overall findings showed great promise for spiking memristor-based ASICs, consuming only 28% of the power used by non-spiking architectures and 6.6% as much power as a CMOS-only spiking architecture on this task. The spike-based nature of the novel design was also parameterized into several intuitive parameters that could be adjusted to prefer either performance or power efficiency.

The design and analysis of architectures for sparse coding should greatly reduce the amount of future work needed to implement an end-to-end classification pipeline for images or other signal data. When lower power is a primary concern, the proposed architecture should be considered as it surpassed other published algorithms. These pipelines could be used to provide low-power visual assistance, highlighting objects within high-definition video frames in real-time. The technology could also be used to help self-driving cars identify hazards more quickly and efficiently.

Persistent Identifier