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UTSA gets $2M NSF grant for energy-efficient AI development

Professor Fidel Santamaria from the University of Texas at San Antonio’s College of Sciences has received a $2 million grant from the National Science Foundation’s Emerging Frontiers in Research and Innovation program. The grant aims to fund the development of energy-efficient artificial intelligence applications.

Machine-learning tools need to categorize data before analyzing it. While this process is straightforward for humans, it requires significant energy resources when performed by machines. Professor Santamaria’s research focuses on reducing the energy consumption associated with training AI models.

One key objective is to advance neuromorphic computing by applying mathematical theories based on how real neurons adapt their behavior based on past activity. The team plans to design electric circuits that mimic this adaptability while being both computationally and energetically efficient.

Current neuromorphic approaches rely on a consistent connectivity between neurons, but Professor Santamaria argues that this is not reflective of the biological reality. According to him, real neurons are history-dependent and capable of adapting individually, a feature that has been overlooked in computational models.

The research will employ fractional order differential equations, a mathematical framework that describes history-dependent processes in neurons. The team aims to replace resistors with history-dependent capacitors in electronic circuits. This approach could result in AI applications that are 100 times more energy-efficient than current models.

Collaborating with experts from the University of Tennessee Knoxville, Portland State University, and the University of South Carolina, the research team aims to create energy-efficient electronic models. The interdisciplinary team combines expertise in biology, physics, computer science, and engineering.

Apart from the research, the grant will also fund four years of student training and the development of workshops in bioethics. The latter will involve collaboration with Visiting Assistant Professor of Instruction, Philosophy and Classics Christopher Stratman at UTSA, focusing on the ethical considerations surrounding the adoption of AI technologies.

[Image courtesy: UTSA]

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