Imagine getting the performance of today’s supercomputers but drawing just a few hundred watts instead of megawatts. Or computer hardware that can run models of neurons, synapses, and high-level functions of the human brain. Or a flexible patch that could be worn on the skin that could detect serious health disorders before symptoms develop. Those are a few applications that could be enabled by neuromorphic computing.

Today’s high-performance computers have a von Neumann architecture, in which the central processing or graphics processing units (CPUs and GPUs) are separate from memory units, with the data and instructions kept in memory. That separation creates a bottleneck that slows throughput. Accessing data from main memory also consumes a considerable amount of energy.

In so-called neuromorphic systems, units known as neurons and synapses operate as both processors and memory. Just like neurons in the brain, artificial neurons only perform work when there is an...

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