Experimental Demonstration and Tolerancing of a Large-Scale Neural Network (165 000 Synapses) Using Phase-Change Memory as the Synaptic Weight Element

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Using two phase-change memory devices per synapse, a three-layer perceptron network with 164 885 synapses is trained on a subset (5000 examples) of the MNIST database of handwritten digits using a backpropagation variant suitable for nonvolatile memory (NVM) + selector crossbar arrays, obtaining a training (generalization) accuracy of 82.2% (82.9%). Using a neural network simulator matched to the experimental demonstrator, extensive tolerancing is performed with respect to NVM variability, yield, and the stochasticity, linearity, and asymmetry of the NVM-conductance response. We show that a bidirectional NVM with a symmetric, linear conductance response of high dynamic range is capable of delivering the same high classification accuracies on this problem as a conventional, software-based implementation of this same network.