Development of an artificial spiking neuron using superconducting nanowires – Emily Toomey

Emily Toomey, a recent PhD graduate in Electrical Engineering & Computer Science, gave the Nano Explorations talk on Tuesday, May 5, 2020.

In light of the growing need for faster, more energy-efficient computation, researchers are rapidly developing architectures inspired by the parallelism and performance of the human brain. Spiking neural networks are perhaps the most bio-realistic approach, mimicking the unique spiking dynamics of neurons to attain superior energy efficiency with the additional benefit of temporal information.

In this talk, Toomey presents a power-efficient artificial neuron made from superconducting nanowires, which naturally generates spiking based on the nonlinear transition between the superconducting and resistive states. Simulations are used to evaluate designs of different neuron components, including a synapse that uses nanowires as a tunable inductor to allow for fan-out with adjustable connectivity. Experimental results of a soma fabricated in 25-nm-thick niobium nitride are also presented.


Nano Explorations is a virtual seminar series powered by MIT.nano that features presentations by MIT students on their work in nanoscience, nanotechnology, and other advanced research fields. The series was launched as a way to keep our nano community connected during the COVID-19 pandemic. Presentations take place on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 11am EST and are open to any interested viewers.

Read more about past and upcoming Nano Explorations at

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