Neurophos Secures $7.2 Million in Funding Round to Create Energy-Efficient Metamaterial-Based Optical AI Chips for Data Centers

Neurophos, a spinout from Duke University and Metacept Inc., announced it has raised $7.2M in a seed round to productize a breakthrough in both metamaterials and optical AI inference chips. 

The company has been funded in a round led by Gates Frontier and supported by MetaVC, Mana Ventures, and others. The seed funding will enable the production of a proprietary metasurface that serves as a tensor core processor enabled by its advanced optical properties. The company will also hire a team of engineers in Austin, Texas.

While GPUs have had massive success in accelerating AI workloads, digital approaches are typically limited by power consumption.  On the other hand, proponents of optical computing techniques claim that photonics can vastly reduce power consumption and therefore accelerate compute speeds far beyond the bounds of what is possible with modern GPUs.

Neurophos’ optical metasurfaces are designed for use in data centers and their approach is already shattering world records in computational energy efficiency. Neurophos plans to use high-speed silicon photonics to drive a metasurface in-memory processor capable of fast, efficient, AI compute. 

According to the company, Neurophos’ technology will provide way more compute per dollar spent on CAPEX and OPEX, at the same energy consumption, and reduce the total cost of ownership of AI accelerator chips and data centers. 

“The most important factor in optical processors is scaling. Optical processors become both exponentially faster and more energy efficient on a per-operation basis as you make them larger.  This means that in a finite chip area, the most important factor is how small you can build the optical devices that compose your processor,” said Patrick Bowen, Neurophos CEO. “By leveraging metamaterials in a standard CMOS process, we have figured out how to shrink an optical processor by 8000X, which will give us orders of magnitude improvement over GPUs today.”

MetaVC Partners provided Neurophos’ initial funding and an exclusive license to the fund’s metamaterials IP portfolio for optical computing.

Neurophos was spun out of Metacept, an incubator led by David R. Smith, James B. Duke Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, focused on creating metamaterials-based companies and collaborating with Professor Smith’s research group at Duke University. Neurophos CTO Tom Driscoll previously founded metamaterials-based radar company Echodyne.

Neurophos AI chips can be fabricated using standard CMOS processes. This gives easy access to volume manufacturing.

The company is also joining Silicon Catalyst, the world's only incubator + accelerator focused on semiconductor solutions, (including Photonics, MEMS, sensors, IP, materials and life sciences) to accelerate startups from idea through prototype, and onto a path to volume production.

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