CEA-Leti has reported that Elisa Vianello, senior scientist and Edge AI program coordinator, has gained a €3 million grant from the European Research Council (ERC) to build nanoscale memory devices inspired by insect nervous systems for such applications as consumer robotics, implantable medical diagnostic microchips and wearable electronics.
“My project is to take inspiration from insects’ nervous systems to relax hardware requirements in terms of memory density and reliability, and to build the new nanosystems we need to enable learning from a very limited volume of noisy data,” said Vianello.
“Crickets make accurate decisions based on sluggish, imprecise, and unreliable neurons and synapses to escape their predators. Looking closely at their biology, we identified a diversity of memory-like functions at play in their sensory and nervous systems,” she said. “By combining these different functions, the cricket’s internal computing system achieves amazing performance and energy efficiency.”
“Our ERC-funded project will use these novel nanoscale memory technologies to mimic the biological mechanisms observed in insects and create high-performance, energy-efficient, silicon-based nanosystems.” Elisa Vianello
“Elisa’s work will open up new research perspectives towards more energy-efficient embedded intelligence capable of online learning,” said Jean-René Lequepeys, Deputy Director and CTO at CEA-Leti. “It is a real technological and application breakthrough that will combine the latest developments in microelectronics using new generations of non-volatile memories and drawing inspiration from the living world. This research work is fully in line with the priorities of the institute and will open up great opportunities for world premieres and commercialization.”
“Since the ideal memory does not exist today, the project aims at building a hybrid synapse that co-integrates different memory technologies,” Vianello said.
Vianello discovered that different functions of the insect’s nervous system closely resemble functions performed by deterministic, probabilistic, volatile and non-volatile memories that she is currently developing with fellow CEA-Leti scientists.
Specifically, her multi-disciplinary team for this project, which will include four Ph.D. students and one post-doctorate student, will make networks of physical nanoscale memory devices that translate insect biological principles into physical principles to enable learning from very limited volumes of noisy data, such as data measured in real-time from different sensors in video cameras, radar sensors, ECG, EMG, bio-impedance streams and potentially also brain signals through EEG sensors and neuro-probes.
ERC Consolidator Grants are highly competitive. Proposals are evaluated by selected international peer reviewers who assess them based on excellence as the sole criterion.