An optical neural network is a physical implementation of an artificial neural network with optical components.

Some artificial neural networks that have been implemented as optical neural networks include the Hopfield neural network[1] and the Kohonen self-organizing map with liquid crystal spatial light modulators[2] Optical neural networks can also be based on the principles of neuromorphic engineering, creating neuromorphic photonic systems. Typically, these systems encode information in the networks using spikes, mimicking the functionality of spiking neural networks in optical and photonic hardware. Photonic devices that have demonstrated neuromorphic functionalities include (among others) vertical-cavity surface-emitting lasers,[3][4] integrated photonic modulators,[5] optoelectronic systems based on superconducting Josephson junctions[6] or systems based on resonant tunnelling diodes.[7]

Electrochemical vs. optical neural networks

Biological neural networks function on an electrochemical basis, while optical neural networks use electromagnetic waves. Optical interfaces to biological neural networks can be created with optogenetics, but is not the same as an optical neural networks. In biological neural networks there exist a lot of different mechanisms for dynamically changing the state of the neurons, these include short-term and long-term synaptic plasticity. Synaptic plasticity is among the electrophysiological phenomena used to control the efficiency of synaptic transmission, long-term for learning and memory, and short-term for short transient changes in synaptic transmission efficiency. Implementing this with optical components is difficult, and ideally requires advanced photonic materials. Properties that might be desirable in photonic materials for optical neural networks include the ability to change their efficiency of transmitting light, based on the intensity of incoming light.


In 2007 there was one model of Optical Neural Network: the Programmable Optical Array/Analogic Computer (POAC). It had been implemented in the year 2000 and reported based on modified Joint Fourier Transform Correlator (JTC) and Bacteriorhodopsin (BR) as a holographic optical memory. Full parallelism, large array size and the speed of light are three promises offered by POAC to implement an optical CNN. They had been investigated during the last years with their practical limitations and considerations yielding the design of the first portable POAC version.

The practical details – hardware (optical setups) and software (optical templates) – were published. However, POAC is a general purpose and programmable array computer that has a wide range of applications including:

See also


  1. ^ Ramachandran R, Gunasekaran N (2000). "Optical Implementation of Two Dimensional Bipolar Hopfield Model Neural Network (Scientific Note)" (PDF). Proceedings-National Science Council Republic of China Part a Physical Science and Engineering. 24 (1): 73–8. Archived from the original (PDF) on 12 October 2004.
  2. ^ Duvillier J, Killinger M, Heggarty K, Yao K, de Bougrenet de la Tocnaye JL (January 1994). "All-optical implementation of a self-organizing map: a preliminary approach". Applied Optics. 33 (2): 258–66. doi:10.1364/AO.33.000258. PMID 20862015.
  3. ^ Hejda M, Robertson J, Bueno J, Alanis J, Hurtado A (2021-06-01). "Neuromorphic encoding of image pixel data into rate-coded optical spike trains with a photonic VCSEL-neuron". APL Photonics. 6 (6): 060802. doi:10.1063/5.0048674. ISSN 2378-0967.
  4. ^ Robertson J, Hejda M, Bueno J, Hurtado A (April 2020). "Ultrafast optical integration and pattern classification for neuromorphic photonics based on spiking VCSEL neurons". Scientific Reports. 10 (1): 6098. doi:10.1038/s41598-020-62945-5. PMC 7142074. PMID 32269249.
  5. ^ George JK, Mehrabian A, Amin R, Meng J, de Lima TF, Tait AN, et al. (February 2019). "Neuromorphic photonics with electro-absorption modulators". Optics Express. 27 (4): 5181–5191. arXiv:1809.03545. doi:10.1364/OE.27.005181. PMID 30876120.
  6. ^ Shainline JM (January 2020). "Fluxonic Processing of Photonic Synapse Events". IEEE Journal of Selected Topics in Quantum Electronics. 26 (1): 1–15. arXiv:1904.02807. doi:10.1109/JSTQE.2019.2927473. ISSN 1077-260X.
  7. ^ Romeira B, Javaloyes J, Ironside CN, Figueiredo JM, Balle S, Piro O (September 2013). "Excitability and optical pulse generation in semiconductor lasers driven by resonant tunneling diode photo-detectors". Optics Express. 21 (18): 20931–40. doi:10.1364/OE.21.020931. hdl:10400.1/11954. PMID 24103966.