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SUNY Poly researchers receive $5.5 million from Rome Lab

By Eric Reinhardt


Will use money for research on computer chips that can learn and adapt           

A professor at SUNY Polytechnic Institute (SUNY Poly) and his research team will use a $5.5 million award from Rome Lab to fabricate small, low-power neuromorphic computer chips. 

The effort seeks to “demonstrate adaptable and reconfigurable neural networks, computing systems that act like synapses in the human brain,” SUNY Poly said. 

Rome Lab is formally known as the Air Force Research Laboratory-Information Directorate (AFRL).

The funding will allow Nathaniel Cady, professor of nanobioscience, Karsten Beckmann, an adjunct faculty member at SUNY Poly, and their research team to work on these chips. The chips will be “more efficient” than the types of chips currently available. 

They’ll also be able to perform complex functions while having the ability to “learn and adapt.” Once fabricated, they’ll be used in a variety of U.S. military and civilian applications.

More specifically, this research seeks to fabricate, test, and deliver custom-built CMOS-based chips or wafers, the platform upon which computer chips are built (CMOS is short for complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor). 

They will be integrated with novel resistive memory materials, combining each of them with new switching materials within the computer-chip process flow, and performing 3D integrated circuit integration and packaging to yield a unique neuromorphic (brain-inspired computing) processor. 

The final aspect of the initiative will be to assist with the development of a range of applications of this powerful, but efficient computing capability.

The research is part of a larger overall program with research groups from the University of Tennessee, as well as the U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, and U.S. Air Force, SUNY Poly said. 

Taking place primarily at SUNY Poly’s Albany campus, it will leverage the Albany Nanotech Complex’s world-class 300 mm. cleanrooms and SUNY Poly’s electronics- testing labs. 

The university’s Marcy campus is also involved as a number of faculty and students are participating across both sites. Steven Wood, SUNY Poly’s senior director of technology-applications development for this project, is providing support. Besides that role, Wood also serves as associate director of innovation and entrepreneurship at the Research Foundation for SUNY, the school noted. 

“This expansive and exciting project brings together the true potential of the SUNY Poly educational and research ecosystem, and I am proud to congratulate Professor Cady and the research teams on receiving this critical funding,” Tod Laursen, acting president of SUNY Poly, said. “This AFRL award is testament to SUNY Poly’s impactful research capabilities, which not only foster hands-on student opportunities, but also utilize deep faculty expertise across both of our campuses.”

The research will also be done in collaboration with the Research Foundation for SUNY to further develop applications for the new chips. As this effort progresses, the AFRL, Navy, and Army research teams will use the chips that SUNY Poly researchers develop for further research and development at their facilities across the U.S., with plans to leverage the resources of the new Innovare Advancement Center at the Griffiss Institute in Rome.

“This research project is an excellent example of the research and educational synergies that exist at SUNY Poly and which are further enabled via close collaboration with our partners,” Cady said. “I am grateful to the AFRL for their support and funding of this important research initiative, and, with Dr. Beckmann, I am proud to work with fellow faculty across SUNY Poly’s two campuses, provide students with leading-edge learning opportunities, and partner with UT-Knoxville, NY CREATES, and the RF for SUNY.”          

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