News Release: SUNY Poly Announces $5.5 Million from Air Force Research Laboratory for Smaller, More Efficient Computer Chips That Can Learn and Adapt

News Release: SUNY Poly Announces $5.5 Million from Air Force Research Laboratory for Smaller, More Efficient Computer Chips That Can Learn and Adapt

Monday, November 15, 2021 - 11:29
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Photo: L: Dr. Nathaniel Cady; R: Dr. Karsten Beckmann

For Release:         Immediate – November 15, 2021
Contact:                Steve Ference, Director of University Communications | (518) 429-7742 |

Brain-inspired computer chips to be developed by team of researchers led by
SUNY Poly Professor Nate Cady and Dr. Karsten Beckmann

Effort will leverage expertise of professors and students from
SUNY Poly’s Utica and Albany campuses

ALBANY AND UTICA, NY – SUNY Polytechnic Institute (SUNY Poly) announced today that Empire Innovation Professor of Nanobioscience Dr. Nathaniel Cady has been awarded $5,500,000 in funding from the Rome-based Air Force Research Laboratory-Information Directorate to demonstrate adaptable and reconfigurable neural networks, computing systems that act like synapses in the human brain. This will allow Dr. Cady, with SUNY Poly adjunct faculty member Dr. Karsten Beckmann and their research team, to fabricate small, low-power neuromorphic computer chips.

These chips will be more efficient than the types of chips currently available, and will also be able to perform complex functions while being able to learn and adapt. Once fabricated, they are to be used in a variety of U.S. military and civilian applications.

The research is part of a larger overall program with research groups from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, as well as the U.S. Army, Navy, and Air Force. Taking place primarily at SUNY Poly’s Albany campus, it will leverage the Albany Nanotech Complex’s world-class 300mm cleanrooms and SUNY Poly’s electronics testing labs. Work will also take place at the institution’s Utica campus as a number of faculty and students participate across both sites with the support of Steven Wood, Senior Director of Technology Applications Development at SUNY Poly for this project and also Associate Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the Research Foundation for SUNY.

“This expansive and exciting project brings together the true potential of the SUNY Poly educational and research ecosystem, and I am proud to congratulate Professor Cady and the research teams on receiving this critical funding,” said SUNY Poly Acting President Dr. Tod A. Laursen. “This AFRL award is testament to SUNY Poly’s impactful research capabilities, which not only foster hands-on student opportunities, but also utilize deep faculty expertise across both of our campuses.”

“I am thrilled to congratulate Dr. Cady and his research team as they and their collaborators develop the next generation of computing power which has the potential to fulfill a number of military and civilian needs,” said SUNY Poly Interim Dean of the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering Dr. André Melendez. “This research will also act as an exciting platform for SUNY Poly students to learn at the edge of what is currently possible.”

More specifically, this research aims to fabricate, test, and deliver custom-built CMOS-based chips or wafers, the platform upon which computer chips are built. They will be integrated with novel resistive memory materials, combining each of them with new switching materials within the computer chip process flow, and performing 3D integrated circuit integration and packaging to yield a unique neuromorphic (brain-inspired computing) processor. The final aspect of the initiative will be to assist with the development of a range of applications of this powerful, but efficient computing capability.

The research will also take part in collaboration with the Research Foundation for SUNY in order to further develop applications for the new chips. As this effort progresses, the AFRL, Navy, and Army research teams will use the chips developed by SUNY Poly researchers for further R&D at their facilities across the United States, with plans to leverage the resources of the new, world-class Innovare Advancement Center, spearheaded by Griffiss Institute.

AFRL is interested in emerging nanoelectronic technologies that can provide revolutionary computational capabilities which enable greater system adaptability, autonomy, and intelligence while improving information availability throughout the Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (C4ISR) enterprise. This includes high performance embedded computing that supports on-board processing using advanced machine learning applications, robust and secure machine learning technology to strengthen and defend military applications of artificial intelligence and machine learning, non-conventional neuromorphic systems and applications, tools to increase the productivity of developing applications, and methods and architectures that can provide dramatic improvements in the performance/cost of systems. Also of interest are technologies that can reduce warfighter decision latencies/response time and decrease system costs and system development times.

“AFRL is pleased to partner with Professor Cady and his team at SUNY Poly on the development of CMOS-based neuromorphic computing processors. Dr. Cady is a proven world leader in the advancement of these revolutionary brain-inspired computing architectures. Neuromorphic computing represents a new paradigm in the use of hardware-based artificial intelligence technology in Air Force information systems. This program will also utilize the amazing capabilities of the Innovare Advancement Center in Rome, NY, further strengthening the relationship between AFRL, SUNY, and the Griffiss Institute,” said Dr. Michael Hayduk, Deputy Director of the AFRL Information Directorate.

“This research project is an excellent example of the research and educational synergies that exist at SUNY Poly and which are further enabled via close collaboration with our partners,” said Dr. Cady. “I am grateful to the AFRL for their support and funding of this important research initiative, and, with Dr. Beckmann, I am proud to work with fellow faculty across SUNY Poly’s two campuses, provide students with leading-edge learning opportunities, and partner with UT-Knoxville, NY CREATES, and the RF for SUNY.”

“NY CREATES congratulates Dr. Cady and his research team on this grant, and we look forward to continuing to work together as they leverage the state-of-the-art cleanrooms and technical expertise that are available at the Albany Nanotech Complex to advance this important effort,” said NY CREATES COO Paul Kelly.

This follows an announcement in Fall 2018 that Dr. Cady received $500,000 in funding from the National Science Foundation to develop advanced computing systems based on a novel approach to the creation of non-volatile memory architecture. In 2019, Dr. Cady received $1.7 million from the AFRL to develop next-gen computing systems.


About SUNY Polytechnic Institute (SUNY Poly)
SUNY Poly is New York’s globally recognized, high-tech educational ecosystem. SUNY Poly offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in the emerging disciplines of nanoscience and nanoengineering, as well as cutting-edge nanobioscience programs at its Albany campus, and undergraduate and graduate degrees in technology, including engineering, cybersecurity, computer science, and the engineering technologies; professional studies, including business, communication, and nursing; and arts and sciences, including natural sciences, mathematics, humanities, and social sciences at its Utica campus; thriving athletic, recreational, and cultural programs, events, and activities complement the campus experience. As the world’s most advanced, university-driven research enterprise, SUNY Poly boasts billions of dollars in high-tech investments and hundreds of corporate partners since its inception. For information visit