Neuron-like dynamics of semiconductor lasers with optical feedback

Jordi Tiana-Alsina
Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya, Nonlinear Dynamics (UPC), Nonlinear Optics and Lasers Research group (DONLL), Rambla St. Nebridi 22, 08222 Terrassa, Barcelona, Spain
Neuromorphic photonics is a new paradigm for ultra-fast neuro-inspired optical computing that can revolutionize information processing and artificial intelligence systems. To implement practical photonic neural networks is crucial to identify low-cost energy-efficient laser systems that can mimic neuronal activity. Here we study experimentally the spiking dynamics of a semiconductor laser with optical feedback under periodic modulation of the pump current, and compare with the dynamics of a neuron that is simulated with the stochastic FitzHugh-Nagumo model, with an applied periodic signal whose waveform is the same as that used to modulate the laser current. Sinusoidal and pulse-down waveforms are tested. We find that the laser response and the neuronal response to the periodic forcing, quantified in terms of the variation of the spike rate with the amplitude and with the period of the forcing signal, is qualitatively similar. We also compare the laser and neuron dynamics using symbolic time series analysis. The characterization of the statistical properties of the relative timing of the spikes in terms of ordinal patterns unveils similarities, and also some differences. Our results indicate that semiconductor lasers with optical feedback can be used as low-cost, energy-efficient photonic neurons, the building blocks of all-optical signal processing systems; however, the external cavity needed for optical feedback limits the laser integration in photonic integrated circuits