Print 80 comment(s) - last by nugundam93.. on May 8 at 9:03 AM

The researchers formed memristors by crossing platinum nanowires with another wire, with a thin dab of titanium dioxide at the junction. Each wire is a seperate memristor, yielding 17 memristors, each 50 nm (150 atoms appr.) wide. The memristor remembers even after powered off.  (Source: J. J. Yang, HP Labs.)
New discrete component from HP joins the ranks of the resistor, capacitor and inductor as the fourth major circuit element

Yesterday Hewlett-Packard (HP), best known as a leading personal computer manufacturer, announced what may be one of the most significant electronics breakthroughs of the decade.  Researchers at HP Labs, the central research center for the company, confirmed the existence of the previously theorized fourth fundamental circuit element of electrical engineering.

The new component is called the “memristor” -- a word blend of "memory" and "resistor".  The physical working model and the mathematical model of the component were presented side by side in a paper in the journal Nature, yesterday.  Four researchers at the lab, led by R. Stanley Williams, presented the device which retains the history of information passed to it.

The device could make for computers that need no boot-up, never forget, use less power, and associate memories much like the human mind.  Such possibilities were long considered the realm of science fiction.  The realization of the device was 37 years in the making, and many had come to think it would never be created.

The component was initially theorized and named by Leon Chua, a distinguished faculty member in the Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences Department of the University of California at Berkeley, in 1971.  Chua's paper argued that the new component was a fundamental fourth element of electronics with unique properties which the other elements did not have.

By leveraging experience in nanoelectronics, Williams was finally able to realize Chua's creation, over three decades later.  Williams was ecstatic about the success.  He stated, "To find something new and yet so fundamental in the mature field of electrical engineering is a big surprise, and one that has significant implications for the future of computer science.  By providing a mathematical model for the physics of a memristor, HP Labs has made it possible for engineers to develop integrated circuit designs that could dramatically improve the performance and energy efficiency of PCs and data centers."

The device could eventually make dynamic random access memory (DRAM) obsolete.  In current systems, active computers store data in DRAM, but must shuffle the information to and from a magnetic hard disk or a flash drive, nonvolatile forms of memory.  Furthermore, when the computer is turned on, the DRAM must be initially loaded from the magnetic memory.  These processes consume both time and energy, slowing computing and raising the energy and heat envelopes of systems.

A memristor would need no boot up as its data would be exactly how it was previously left.  Data could theoretically be read and wrote directly to and from memristors, eliminating the need for hard drives, except possibly for backup storage.

With the advent of “cloud computing” -- the transition of data storage to the online world this device becomes even more valuable and timely.  The IT infrastructure that's growing to support cloud computing uses thousands of systems, multiplying the energy costs of ram usage exponentially.  The new component could dramatically reduce the power, and thus the expense of such systems, as well as helping to protect user data and reducing load times.

One key problem to data centers has always been the possibility of a power loss.  The memristor essentially would take away the problem, as barring complete circuit destruction; the data would survive a power outage.  The type of memory also offers the possibility of continuously learning and adapting systems, similar to the human brain.  Such systems could be used in facial recognition technology, as well as in enabling advanced biometric security and privacy features.

Williams is no stranger to innovation -- he founded HP Labs’ Information and Quantum Systems Lab and has been its director ever since.  The lab strives to develop advances in the realms of mathematics and physical science useful to computing.  The lab has logged many advances in nanoelectronics and nanophotonics, but the memristor may well go down in history as its most significant contribution.

Comments     Threshold

This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

By Master Kenobi on 5/1/2008 2:20:07 PM , Rating: 4
Mad props to these guys. Can't wait to see practical usage in future platforms.

RE: Excellent
By MrBlastman on 5/1/2008 2:32:44 PM , Rating: 2
I concur. Bye bye CMOS battery, you'll be missed. :)

RE: Excellent
By ViroMan on 5/1/2008 3:01:44 PM , Rating: 3
Your still going to need the CMOS battery. How else do you intend your computer to keep time unless you keep it the whole computer on battery backup 24/7 (which is more expensive).

The CMOS is mainly for the computer to remember CMOS settings yes... but it also allows the computer to count the time that passes.

RE: Excellent
By DragonMaster0 on 5/1/2008 3:23:44 PM , Rating: 2
There are currently used alternatives such as +5VSB (your CMOS battery is useless while your computer is connected to the mains, by the way as you'd be replacing the battery every 3 weeks otherwise),
and your computer could simply get time from the Internet on boot rather than once every few days like Windows is doing currently.

RE: Excellent
By TomZ on 5/1/2008 3:29:35 PM , Rating: 3
Not true, the typical Lithium battery used in computers can power the real-time clock for many years without any outside power.

Think about often do you change the battery in your watch? Also with a typical watch, the battery is much smaller, and the battery will also power the moving hands of an analog watch of you have one.

RE: Excellent
By ViroMan on 5/2/2008 4:33:49 AM , Rating: 3
Sure you could use the +5 but thats why I said you would have to keep your whole computer on a battery backup. When ever a power outage occurs you loose time. If your clock is reset, windows will force a disk check on you believing your disk got messed up because the date stamps are ahead of the clock.

RE: Excellent
By MrBlastman on 5/1/2008 4:48:25 PM , Rating: 1
Easy, you update your time via the internet and the Atomic Clock. Far more accurate than a battery-driven timer. :)

(now all we have to do is make sure latency doesn't get in the way ;) )

RE: Excellent
By jconan on 5/2/2008 4:08:55 AM , Rating: 2
unfortunately not every pc is connected to the network some are stand alone only for security and certain functions. even the battlestar galactica the pcs weren't networked. j/k

RE: Excellent
By djkrypplephite on 5/2/2008 3:09:19 AM , Rating: 2
This is too good of an invention to use, like a lot of others. I doubt its use will come to pass.

"Young lady, in this house we obey the laws of thermodynamics!" -- Homer Simpson

Most Popular ArticlesAMD, Zen Processor might power the upcoming Apple MacBook Pro
September 30, 2016, 5:00 AM
Leaked – Samsung S8 is a Dream and a Dream 2
September 25, 2016, 8:00 AM
Are you ready for this ? HyperDrive Aircraft
September 24, 2016, 9:29 AM
Inspiron Laptops & 2-in-1 PCs
September 25, 2016, 9:00 AM
Apple’s Siri Speaker is a Game Changer
September 26, 2016, 5:00 AM

Copyright 2016 DailyTech LLC. - RSS Feed | Advertise | About Us | Ethics | FAQ | Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information | Kristopher Kubicki