The digital design of everyday computers is good for reading email and gaming, but today’s problem-solving computers are working with vast amounts of data. The ability to both store and process this information can lead to performance bottlenecks due to the way computers are built.

The next computer revolution might be a new kind of hardware, called processing-in-memory (PIM), an emerging computing paradigm that merges the memory and processing unit and does its computations using the physical properties of the machine — no 1s or 0s needed to do the processing digitally.

Researchers from the lab of Xuan “Silvia” Zhang, associate professor in the Preston M. Green Department of Electrical & Systems Engineering at the McKelvey School of Engineering, partnered with Shanghai Jiao Tong University to design a new PIM circuit, which brings the flexibility of neural networks to bear on PIM computing. The circuit has the potential to increase PIM computing’s performance by orders of magnitude beyond its current theoretical capabilities. Their research was published in the journal IEEE Transactions on Computers.