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Memristor: the fourth circuit element

Memristor: the fourth circuit element

The memristor works on a nanoscale level and opens up a whole new realm of digital and analogue technologies.

HP Labs hopes it has created the basis for a fourth basic integrated circuit element which promises to produce computing devices with instant startup and non-volatile memory.

Dubbed a 'memristor' – short for 'memory resistor' – the device joins the three most fundamental elements of circuits currently known: the resistor, capacitor, and inductor.

The groundwork for the device was started back in 1971 when Professor Leon Chua of the Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences Department of the University of California at Berkeley published a paper featuring a mathematical model showing the theory behind a memristor, but was unable to use the technology available at the time to actually prove its existence, much less create a viable example.

Since then, HP Labs has done a lot of work on nanoscale devices that exhibit memristance, and a team headed by R. Stanley Williams at the Information and Quantum Systems Lab believe they have finally cracked it. Williams describes the experience of finding “something so new and yet so fundamental in the very mature field of electrical engineering [...] a big surprise.”

Chua, author of the paper which lead to the teams work on memristor technology, describes the vindication of his theories an “amazing development,” and says “it took someone like Stan Williams with a multi-disciplinary background and deep insights to conceive of such a tiny memristor only a few atoms in thickness.

The team is already thinking of practical applications for this new electronic building block, starting with a replacement for the current volatile dynamic memory in computing devices. The memristor technology holds the promise of vast swathes of non-volatile storage with the same performance as today's DRAM but with a tiny power consumption – perfect for portable devices and for creating computers which can start from cold instantaneously.

How long it'll be before we actually start seeing the technology making an impact on purchasable devices remains to be seen – with such a fundamental change to the most basic building blocks of modern technology, it could take a while for engineers to get their heads around the new rules of the game.

If you're of a technical bent and would like to know more about the nitty-gritty of memristor technology and HP's research therein, the team's work has been published in the May edition of Nature magazine. And if you can follow what the heck the abstract is talking about, share your expertise over in the forums.

10 Comments

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Krikkit 2nd May 2008, 09:48 Quote
I recommend anyone at uni with an Athens login gives it a go - it's a very interesting paper, which is well explained, even if you don't do semiconductor physics/electrical engineering.

I'd post up a diagram that explains the whole thing from the paper, but it's illegal... :(

The concept of the part is really revolutionary, but it's worth pointing out that the team haven't managed to make a large-numbered lattice of them yet, and that's the real test of whether we can use the technology yet.
zero0ne 2nd May 2008, 12:42 Quote
BAD!!!

there is no point in trying to extend the silicon computer format; they should instead be pushing more for quantum computing!

(don't take my bad seriously, its only a joke!)
Faulk_Wulf 2nd May 2008, 14:11 Quote
Huh. Cool.

I'll take a petabyte hard drive now, plzkthxbai?

:P
willyolio 2nd May 2008, 18:15 Quote
sweet. i love being in university. full access to papers.
Krikkit 2nd May 2008, 18:16 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by willyolio
sweet. i love being in university. full access to papers.

Awesome, isn't it. :D
johnmustrule 2nd May 2008, 21:03 Quote
yes, tomorrow, probably.... ... ... .... .... ....
cpemma 2nd May 2008, 23:41 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Wikipedia
the memristor is popularly being referred to, accurately, as a flux capacitor due to memristance being a relation between charge and magnetic flux

:)

But of more interest
Quote:
They can also be fashioned into non-volatile solid-state memory, which would allow greater data density than hard drives with access times potentially similar to DRAM, replacing both components. HP prototyped a crossbar latch memory using the devices that can fit 100 gigabit in a square centimeter. The highest-density Flash memories store 16 gigabit in the same area, for comparison. HP has reported that its version of the memristor is about one tenth the speed of DRAM.
DXR_13KE 3rd May 2008, 01:22 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by willyolio
sweet. i love being in university. full access to papers.

what universities have access to this information?
Kipman725 3rd May 2008, 23:56 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Krikkit
I recommend anyone at uni with an Athens login gives it a go - it's a very interesting paper, which is well explained, even if you don't do semiconductor physics/electrical engineering.

I'd post up a diagram that explains the whole thing from the paper, but it's illegal... :(

The concept of the part is really revolutionary, but it's worth pointing out that the team haven't managed to make a large-numbered lattice of them yet, and that's the real test of whether we can use the technology yet.

I rearly would like to read the paper but it's very expensive. I guess I can do when I get to uni?
is it posible to imagine this as EEPROM on steroids?
ChromeX 4th May 2008, 00:34 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by DXR_13KE
what universities have access to this information?

Everyone with an access to the athens system, unfortunatly i've forgot my logon details so i cant access it from home. If Anyone wants a copy PM me, i'll pop in on tuesday and access it from uni and forward it.
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