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  1. Today’s Deep Neural Network (DNN) inference systems contain hundreds of billions of parameters, resulting in significant latency and energy overheads during inference due to frequent data transfers between compute and memory units. Processing-in-Memory (PiM) has emerged as a viable solution to tackle this problem by avoiding the expensive data movement. PiM approaches based on electrical devices suffer from throughput and energy efficiency issues. In contrast, Optically-addressed Phase Change Memory (OPCM) operates with light and achieves much higher throughput and energy efficiency compared to its electrical counterparts. This paper introduces a system-level design that takes the OPCM programming overhead into consideration, and identifies that the programming cost dominates the DNN inference on OPCM-based PiM architectures. We explore the design space of this system and identify the most energy-efficient OPCM array size and batch size. We propose a novel thresholding and reordering technique on the weight blocks to further reduce the programming overhead. Combining these optimizations, our approach achieves up to 65.2x higher throughput than existing photonic accelerators for practical DNN workloads. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available August 7, 2024
  2. Bragg gratings offer high-performance filtering and routing of light on-chip through a periodic modulation of a waveguide’s effective refractive index. Here, we model and experimentally demonstrate the use of Sb2Se3, a nonvolatile and transparent phase-change material, to tune the resonance conditions in two devices which leverage periodic Bragg gratings—a stopband filter and Fabry-Perot cavity. Through simulations, we show that similar refractive indices between silicon and amorphous Sb2Se3can be used to induce broadband transparency, while the crystalline state can enhance the index contrast in these Bragg devices. Our experimental results show the promise and limitations of this design approach and highlight specific fabrication challenges which need to be addressed in future implementations.

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  3. Optical phase-change materials have enabled nonvolatile programmability in integrated photonic circuits by leveraging a reversible phase transition between amorphous and crystalline states. To control these materials in a scalable manner on-chip, heating the waveguide itself via electrical currents is an attractive option which has been recently explored using various approaches. Here, we compare the heating efficiency, fabrication variability, and endurance of two promising heater designs which can be easily integrated into silicon waveguides—a resistive microheater using n-doped silicon and one using a silicon p-type/intrinsic/n-type (PIN) junction. Raman thermometry is used to characterize the heating efficiencies of these microheaters, showing that both devices can achieve similar peak temperatures but revealing damage in the PIN devices. Subsequent endurance testing and characterization of both device types provide further insights into the reliability and potential damage mechanisms that can arise in electrically programmable phase-change photonic devices.

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  4. Abstract

    Chalcogenide phase change materials (PCMs) have become one of the most promising material platforms for the Optics and Photonics community. The unparalleled combination of nonvolatility and large optical property modulation promises devices with low‐energy consumption and ultra‐compact form factors. At the core of all these applications lies the difficult task of precisely controlling the glassy amorphous and crystalline domains that compose the PCM microstructure and dictate the optical response. A spatially controllable glassy‐crystalline domain distribution is desired for intermediate optical response (vs. binary response between fully amorphous and crystalline states), and temporally resolved domains are sought after for repeatable reconfiguration. In this perspective, we briefly review the fundamentals of PCM phase transition in various reconfiguring approaches for optical devices. We discuss each method's underpinning mechanisms, design, advantages, and downsides. Finally, we lay out current challenges and future directions in this field.

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  5. Owing to their unique tunable optical properties, chalcogenide phase change materials are increasingly being investigated for optics and photonics applications. However, in situ characterization of their phase transition characteristics is a capability that remains inaccessible to many researchers. Herein, a multifunctional silicon microheater platform capable of in situ measurement of structural, kinetic, optical, and thermal properties of these materials is introduced. The platform can be fabricated leveraging industry‐standard silicon foundry manufacturing processes. This platform is fully open‐sourced, including complete hardware design and associated software codes.

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