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A 64-core mixed-signal in-memory compute chip based on phase-change memory for deep neural network inference


Analogue in-memory computing (AIMC) with resistive memory devices could reduce the latency and energy consumption of deep neural network inference tasks by directly performing computations within memory. However, to achieve end-to-end improvements in latency and energy consumption, AIMC must be combined with on-chip digital operations and on-chip communication. Here we report a multicore AIMC chip designed and fabricated in 14 nm complementary metal–oxide–semiconductor technology with backend-integrated phase-change memory. The fully integrated chip features 64 AIMC cores interconnected via an on-chip communication network. It also implements the digital activation functions and additional processing involved in individual convolutional layers and long short-term memory units. With this approach, we demonstrate near-software-equivalent inference accuracy with ResNet and long short-term memory networks, while implementing all the computations associated with the weight layers and the activation functions on the chip. For 8-bit input/output matrix–vector multiplications, in the four-phase (high-precision) or one-phase (low-precision) operational read mode, the chip can achieve a maximum throughput of 16.1 or 63.1 tera-operations per second at an energy efficiency of 2.48 or 9.76 tera-operations per second per watt, respectively.

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Fig. 1: IBM HERMES project chip overview.
Fig. 2: MVM characterization.
Fig. 3: ResNet-9 on CIFAR-10 measurement results.
Fig. 4: LSTM for character prediction measurement results.
Fig. 5: LSTM for image caption generation measurement results.

Data availability

The data that support the plots within this paper and other findings of this study are available from the corresponding authors upon reasonable request.


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We thank G. W. Burr, M. Bühler, T. Maurer, A. Müller, Y. Kohda, K. Hosakawa, S. Ambrogio, F. L. Lie, F. Liu, T. Levin and T. Gordon for assistance with the chip design; A. Okazaki, H. Mori and M. Bergendahl for assistance with the chip packaging; J. F. Mas, G. Cristiano and J. Paret for chip testing and simulation; F. Odermatt, I. Boybat, S. R. Nandakumar, C. Piveteau, C. Lammie and H. Benmeziane for help with the network deployment on the chip; and A. Pantazi, R. Haas, A. Curioni, S. Tsai, W. Haensch, J. Burns, R. Divakaruni and M. Khare for managerial support. We would also like to thank L. Benini and B. Rajendran for their support with supervising the students. This work was supported by the IBM Research AI Hardware Center. A. Sebastian acknowledges partial funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement nos. 682675 and 966764).

Author information

Authors and Affiliations



M.L.G. and A. Sebastian defined the neural network inference and compute precision characterization research. R.K.-A. led and performed the analogue design of the chip. M.S. led the digital design of the chip. M.S., M.D., G.K., M.B., A. Singh, S.M.M. and P.A.F. performed the digital design. M.L.G., A.V., B.K., G.K. and A.G. performed the chip testing and wrote the code to operate it. A.V. and B.K. performed the neural network inference and MVM characterization hardware experiments. J.B., X.T., V.J. and M.J.R. performed the hardware-aware training of the neural networks. M.L.G. and U.E. performed the chip performance measurements. U.E. built the chip testing platform. A.P. and T.A. wrote the field-programmable gate array code to interface with the chip. K.B., S.C., I.O., T.P., V.C., C.S., I.A. and N.S. performed the backend integration of the PCM devices and wafer-level testing. M.L.G. wrote the manuscript with input from all authors. V.N., P.A.F., E.E. and A. Sebastian supervised the project.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Manuel Le Gallo or Abu Sebastian.

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Extended data

Extended Data Fig. 1 Digital communication fabric.

a, Schematic of link controller. The dotted line refers to the core boundary. The transmitter-side link controller prepends a preamble to the payload being sent on the links. The preamble contains information to uniquely identify a routing path for a particular type of payload. If the receiving core is enabled to receive data from the transmitting core in the routing table, the link controller samples the incoming data. Furthermore, the link controller in the transmitting and receiving cores can select a portion of the payload according to another set of routing registers. b, Possible link connections for Core(3,5) and Core(4,5), where the notation Core(r,c) refers to the core located at row r and column c in Fig. 1b. c, Link connections for the entire chip (available connections are denoted in green color). The RX and TX connections for Core(3,5) and Core(4,5) shown in b are indicated. d, Link characterization results on one chip for communicating data from the LDPU of a core to the LDPU of another core. A payload of 255 bytes is sent by the transmitter core and an error is triggered if at least one byte of the payload received in the LDPU of the receiver core does not match with the original payload. All links with a Manhattan distance of 1 or 2 cores show no errors when run at 100 MHz, and 98% of them at 400 MHz. Links with longer Manhattan distances show more errors potentially due to attenuation from longer-distance routing metal wires due to parasitics. The issue can be mitigated in a future design by placement of buffers at reasonable distances along the wires, or by employing a core connectivity matrix that does not rely on long distance links. All the links used in the experimental demonstrations shown in this work have a Manhattan distance of 1 core and are fully working at 400 MHz.

Extended Data Fig. 2 PCM crossbar array.

a, Schematic of 8T4R unit-cell. The top electrodes of the conductance pairs of each polarity connect to separate bit lines \(B{L}_{m}^{+}\), \(B{L}_{m}^{-}\) and the sources of their lower access-transistors connect to separate source lines \(S{L}_{n}^{+}\), \(S{L}_{n}^{-}\). Thus, the devices in a conductance pair are weighted with equal significance and the total conductance per unit-cell becomes: \(\left({g}_{1}^{+}+{g}_{2}^{+}\right)-\left({g}_{1}^{-}+{g}_{2}^{-}\right)\). b, Schematic of PCM crossbar array. To program the PCM devices, the dedicated per-core programming FSM instructs the diagonal selection decoder to enable one diagonal of cells that contains the devices that are to be programmed. The diagonal selection decoder controls the \({SEL}_{m,n}^{1}\) and \({SEL}_{m,n}^{2}\) signals in the unit-cell, which are routed diagonally throughout the array. The selected devices are programmed by the current-steering DAC-based programming units located on top of the PCM array. To perform an MVM, the 256 inputs to the crossbar array (IN0 − IN255) are applied via the red source lines (SLs) to the 8T4R cells. The resulting bit line (BL) currents are summed up on the blue wires and read by the ADCs that flank the crossbar array on the left and right. c, Layout of one ADC. The block diagram that is shown below the layout illustrates the various components of the ADC, namely, the read voltage regulator, the current-to-frequency converter, and the 2 × 12-bit ripple counter.

Extended Data Fig. 3 PCM device.

a, A typical programming curve indicating the programmed device conductance as a function of the programming current. The device conductance is determined by the phase configuration within the PCM device and in particular, the size of the amorphous region. Data are presented as mean values + / − one standard deviation over 10 repeated measurements on a single device. b, Low-angle annular darkfield (LAADF) scanning transmission electron microscope (STEM) image of a fully RESET PCM device showing a substantially large amorphous region that fully blocks the bottom electrode. LAADF enables the imaging of the amorphous region with high resolution. c, LAADF of a partially RESET PCM device showing a much smaller amorphous region. The synaptic weights are stored in an analog manner in terms of these phase configurations and the resulting conductance values.

Extended Data Fig. 4 Input modulation modes for MVM.

a, Full array read procedure for MVMs showing the connection between ADC, unit-cells, and input modulator switches. Signals PP and PN connect the positive source lines \(S{L}_{1:N}^{+}\) to the positive potential V+ and negative potential V, respectively. For NP and NN it is vice versa. b, 1-phase modulation mode. Inputs of positive and negative polarity are applied to weights of positive and negative polarity in one modulation cycle TPWM. c, 4-phase modulation mode. Inputs of positive and negative polarity are applied individually to weights of positive and negative polarity in four modulation cycles.

Extended Data Fig. 5 Weight programming procedure.

a, Crossbar array during programming. b, Proposed TDP algorithm to program a target conductance value G on a unit-cell. c, Weight error comparison between TDP of this work and previous approaches. TDP - Max-fill refers to programming the two devices with iterative programming up to the ODP \({G}_{\max }\), as proposed in Ref. 31. Due to the wide SET distribution shown in Fig. 2a, some devices in the core either cannot achieve \({G}_{\max }\), or conversely could be programmed to much higher conductance values than \({G}_{\max }\). Therefore, the latter approach leads to programming inaccuracies resulting from either under-utilizing the conductance range of individual devices or from devices that cannot reach \({G}_{\max }\). The proposed TDP algorithm solves this issue by using the readout SET conductance of the devices of the unit-cell to map the weight.

Extended Data Fig. 6 Area and power splits.

a, Area breakdown of the main chip components. b, Static power consumed by the different components of the chip measured for the operation of the LSTM unit of the image caption generation task (4 core rows and GDPU active).

Extended Data Table 1 Summary of IBM HERMES Project Chip specifications
Extended Data Table 2 Comparison of IBM HERMES Project Chip with other multi-core AIMC chips demonstrating neural network inference

Supplementary information

Supplementary Video 1

Live demonstration of image captioning using the IBM HERMES project chip.

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Le Gallo, M., Khaddam-Aljameh, R., Stanisavljevic, M. et al. A 64-core mixed-signal in-memory compute chip based on phase-change memory for deep neural network inference. Nat Electron 6, 680–693 (2023).

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