Ising machines are novel computing devices for the energy minimization of Ising models. These combinatorial optimization problems are of paramount importance for science and technology, but remain difficult to tackle on large scale by conventional electronics. Recently, various photonics-based Ising machines demonstrated ultra-fast computing of Ising ground state by data processing through multiple temporal or spatial optical channels. Experimental noise acts as a detrimental effect in many of these devices. On the contrary, we here demonstrate that an optimal noise level enhances the performance of spatial-photonic Ising machines on frustrated spin problems. By controlling the error rate at the detection, we introduce a noisy-feedback mechanism in an Ising machine based on spatial light modulation. We investigate the device performance on systems with hundreds of individually-addressable spins with all-to-all couplings and we found an increased success probability at a specific noise level. The optimal noise amplitude depends on graph properties and size, thus indicating an additional tunable parameter helpful in exploring complex energy landscapes and in avoiding trapping into local minima. The result points out noise as a resource for optical computing. This concept, which also holds in different nanophotonic neural networks, may be crucial in developing novel hardware with optics-enabled parallel architecture for large-scale optimizations.
Published in Nanophotonics