GHz rate neuromorphic photonic spiking neural network with a single Vertical-Cavity Surface-Emitting Laser (VCSEL)

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Vertical-Cavity Surface-Emitting Lasers (VCSELs) are highly promising devices for the construction of neuromorphic photonic information processing systems, due to their numerous desirable properties such as low power consumption, high modulation speed, and compactness. Of particular interest is the ability of VCSELs to exhibit neuron-like spiking responses at ultrafast sub-nanosecond rates; thus offering great prospects for high-speed light-enabled spike-based processors. Recent works have shown spiking VCSELs are capable of tackling pattern recognition and image processing problems, but additionally, VCSELs have been used as nonlinear elements in photonic reservoir computing (RC) implementations, yielding state of the art operation. This work introduces and experimentally demonstrates for the first time a new GHz-rate photonic spiking neural network (SNN) built with a single VCSEL neuron. The reported system effectively implements a photonic VCSEL-based spiking reservoir computer, and demonstrates its successful application to a complex nonlinear classification task. Importantly, the proposed system benefits from a highly hardware-friendly, inexpensive realization (a single VCSEL device and off-the-shelf fibre-optic components), for high-speed (GHz-rate inputs) and low-power (sub-mW optical input power) photonic operation. These results open new pathways towards future neuromorphic photonic spike-based processing systems based upon VCSELs (or other laser types) for novel ultrafast machine learning and AI hardware.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1500110
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages11
JournalIEEE Journal of Selected Topics in Quantum Electronics
Issue number2
Early online date12 Sept 2022
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2023


  • vertical-cavity surface-emitting lasers (VCSEL)
  • photonic information processing systems
  • neural network
  • neurons
  • photonics
  • resevoirs
  • optical imaging
  • nonlinear optics
  • task analysis


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