Intel's new Loihi 2 neuromorphic processor is one of the first it has produced on a 4 nm node
Intel has unveiled the Loihi 2, the second-generation of what it calls neuromorphic chips. The first of these experimental chips was fabricated on Intel’s 14 nm process in 2018 yielding a ‘neuron’ count of 131,000 per 60 mm2. The chip is designed to be scalable and was combined with 768 chips in Intel’s custom Pohoiki Springs rack system for a total of 100 million neurons at 300 watts. According to Intel, this system has the processing power of a hamster brain.
The new Loihi 2 has been fabricated on Intel’s upcoming 4 nm EUV node and was a perfect chip design to help Intel test out its new fabrication technology. It supports 1 million neurons per 31 mm2 with neuron density increasing 15 times. While process nodes are important, just as important is how dense the transistors (or in this case neurons) are. This is one reason why Apple’s A15 Bionic fabricated on TSMC’s latest 5 nm technology is superior to both the Snapdragon 888 and Exynos 2100 which are fabricated on Samsung’s less transistor dense 5 nm process.
The Loihi 2 has been developed by Intel Labs, and currently is only being used by other researchers. The company, however, does eventually see it making its way into commercial scenarios where AI is required. It differs from the neural cores we see in mobile chips today which still process instructions sequentially. Instead, neuromorphic chips like Loihi 2 rethink this architecture and use a fully integrated memory and compute model inspired by the brain. To this extent, the neurons work collectively as a dynamic system akin to quantum computing in some ways, but still using a traditional chip design model.