First Advisor

Christof Teuscher

Date of Publication

Summer 8-3-2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Electrical and Computer Engineering


Electrical and Computer Engineering




Memristors, Neural networks (Computer science), Neuromorphics



Physical Description

1 online resource (xiv, 156 pages)


Neuromorphic engineering is the research field dedicated to the study and design of brain-inspired hardware and software tools. Recent advances in emerging nanoelectronics promote the implementation of synaptic connections based on memristive devices. Their non-volatile modifiable conductance was shown to exhibit the synaptic properties often used in connecting and training neural layers. With their nanoscale size and non-volatile memory property, they promise a next step in designing more area and energy efficient neuromorphic hardware.

My research deals with the challenges of harnessing memristive device properties that go beyond the behaviors utilized for synaptic weight storage. Based on devices that exhibit non-linear state changes and volatility, I present novel architectures and algorithms that can harness such features for computation.

The crossbar architecture is a dense array of memristive devices placed in-between horizontal and vertical nanowires. The regularity of this structure does not inherently provide the means for nonlinear computation of applied input signals. Introducing a modulation scheme that relies on nonlinear memristive device properties, heterogeneous state patterns of applied spatiotemporal input data can be created within the crossbar. In this setup, the untrained and dynamically changing states of the memristive devices offer a useful platform for information processing. Based on the MNIST data set I'll demonstrate how the temporal aspect of memristive state volatility can be utilized to reduce system size and training complexity for high dimensional input data. With 3 times less neurons and 15 times less synapses to train as compared to other memristor-based implementations, I achieve comparable classification rates of up to 93%. Exploiting dynamic state changes rather than precisely tuned stable states, this approach can tolerate device variation up to 6 times higher than reported levels.

Random assemblies of memristive networks are analyzed as a substrate for intrinsic computation in connection with reservoir computing; a computational framework that harnesses observations of inherent dynamics within complex networks. Architectural and device level considerations lead to new levels of task complexity, which random memristive networks are now able to solve. A hierarchical design composed of independent random networks benefits from a diverse set of topologies and achieves prediction errors (NRMSE) on the time-series prediction task NARMA-10 as low as 0.15 as compared to 0.35 for an echo state network. Physically plausible network modeling is performed to investigate the relationship between network dynamics and energy consumption. Generally, increased network activity comes at the cost of exponentially increasing energy consumption due to nonlinear voltage-current characteristics of memristive devices. A trade-off, that allows linear scaling of energy consumption, is provided by the hierarchical approach. Rather than designing individual memristive networks with high switching activity, a collection of less dynamic, but independent networks can provide more diverse network activity per unit of energy.

My research extends the possibilities of including emerging nanoelectronics into neuromorphic hardware. It establishes memristive devices beyond storage and motivates future research to further embrace memristive device properties that can be linked to different synaptic functions. Pursuing to exploit the functional diversity of memristive devices will lead to novel architectures and algorithms that study rather than dictate the behavior of such devices, with the benefit of creating robust and efficient neuromorphic hardware.


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