Si Elegans, the base for a potential major step forward in computational architecture

The Computational Intelligence Laboratory of Nottingham Trent University, UK, is part of the Si elegans project, set up in 2013 to create an emulation platform for the C. elegans nervous system. The objective is to create a reconfigurable, scalable and modular open-access computational platform that will provide a technological blueprint for a new era of brain-like computational architectures. C. elegans, the first multicellular organism to have its whole genome sequenced, is a soil-dwelling worm with a life span of a few days, one mm long and 80 µm in diameter. Biological nervous systems work in different ways than current computers and any simulation running on them. In nature, information is processed in a highly parallel and “plastic” fashion; successfully emulating this process potentially offers orders of magnitude increases over current technologies in computational speed.

Verotec has provided custom 6U 450mm deep 19” KM6-II subracks, configured to house 376 dynamically reconfigurable field programmable gate arrays (drFPGAs), arranged in a 3D interconnection configuration to replicate the neuron and muscle connectome of C. elegans. Each subracks houses eight FPGA boards, each with an onboard PSU; interconnection is via Gigabit Ethernet. Special strengthened side panels with large cutouts that facilitate access to the FPGA boards and a drop-down hinged front panel, also with a large cutout, are tailored to the needs of the system.

Tim Armstrong, Verotec’s Commercial Director, commented, “This impressive project has the potential to revolutionise the computer industry, and Verotec are proud to have been selected to provide our electronic packaging products as key elements of the initial research.”

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