BPLight-CNN: A Photonics-based Backpropagation Accelerator for Deep Learning Academic Article uri icon


  • Training deep learning networks involves continuous weight updates across the various layers of the deep network while using a backpropagation algorithm (BP). This results in expensive computation overheads during training. Consequently, most deep learning accelerators today employ pre-trained weights and focus only on improving the design of the inference phase. The recent trend is to build a complete deep learning accelerator by incorporating the training module. Such efforts require an ultra-fast chip architecture for executing the BP algorithm. In this article, we propose a novel photonics-based backpropagation accelerator for high performance deep learning training. We present the design for a convolutional neural network, BPLight-CNN, which incorporates the silicon photonics-based backpropagation accelerator. BPLight-CNN is a first-of-its-kind photonic and memristor-based CNN architecture for end-to-end training and prediction. We evaluate BPLight-CNN using a photonic CAD framework (IPKISS) on deep learning benchmark models including LeNet and VGG-Net. The proposed design achieves (i) at least 34x speedup, 34x improvement in computational efficiency, and 38.5x energy savings, during training; and (ii) 29x speedup, 31x improvement in computational efficiency, and 38.7x improvement in energy savings, during inference compared to the state-of-the-art designs. All these comparisons are done at a 16-bit resolution; and BPLight-CNN achieves these improvements at a cost of approximately 6% lower accuracy compared to the state-of-the-art.

author list (cited authors)

  • Dang, D., Chittamuru, S., Pasricha, S., Mahapatra, R., & Sahoo, D.

complete list of authors

  • Dang, D||Chittamuru, SVR||Pasricha, S||Mahapatra, R||Sahoo, D

publication date

  • February 2021