Graphene-Based Artificial Synapses with Tunable Plasticity

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Design and implementation of artificial neuromorphic systems able to provide brain akin computation and/or bio-compatible interfacing ability are crucial for understanding the human brain's complex functionality and unleashing brain-inspired computation's full potential. To this end, the realization of energy-efficient, low-area, and bio-compatible artificial synapses, which sustain the signal transmission between neurons, is of particular interest for any large-scale neuromorphic system. Graphene is a prime candidate material with excellent electronic properties, atomic dimensions, and low-energy envelope perspectives, which was already proven effective for logic gates implementations. Furthermore, distinct from any other materials used in current artificial synapse implementations, graphene is biocompatible, which offers perspectives for neural interfaces. In view of this, we investigate the feasibility of graphene-based synapses to emulate various synaptic plasticity behaviors and look into their potential area and energy consumption for large-scale implementations. In this article, we propose a generic graphene-based synapse structure, which can emulate the fundamental synaptic functionalities, i.e., Spike-Timing-Dependent Plasticity (STDP) and Long-Term Plasticity. Additionally, the graphene synapse is programable by means of back-gate bias voltage and can exhibit both excitatory or inhibitory behavior. We investigate its capability to obtain different potentiation/depression time scale for STDP with identical synaptic weight change amplitude when the input spike duration varies. Our simulation results, for various synaptic plasticities, indicate that a maximum 30% synaptic weight change and potentiation/depression time scale range from [-1.5 ms, 1.1 ms to [-32.2 ms, 24.1 ms] are achievable. We further explore the effect of our proposal at the Spiking Neural Network (SNN) level by performing NEST-based simulations of a small SNN implemented with 5 leaky-integrate-and-fire neurons connected via graphene-based synapses. Our experiments indicate that the number of SNN firing events exhibits a strong connection with the synaptic plasticity type, and monotonously varies with respect to the input spike frequency. Moreover, for graphene-based Hebbian STDP and spike duration of 20ms we obtain an SNN behavior relatively similar with the one provided by the same SNN with biological STDP. The proposed graphene-based synapse requires a small area (max. 30 nm2), operates at low voltage (200 mV), and can emulate various plasticity types, which makes it an outstanding candidate for implementing large-scale brain-inspired computation systems.

Original languageEnglish
Article number50
Number of pages21
JournalACM Journal on Emerging Technologies in Computing Systems
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Artificial synapse
  • graphene
  • LTD
  • LTP
  • neuromorphic computing
  • STDP
  • synaptic plasticity


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