backtop


Print 80 comment(s) - last by HollyDOL.. on Dec 4 at 4:02 PM


The memristor looks unassuming; here's a single titanium dioxide memristor up close.  (Source: J. J. Yang, HP Labs)

HP has created the world's first memristor circuit. Researchers cut out transistors from the bottom layer of this silicon-based chip (shown in yellow and blue) and replaced them with fewer memristors in the top layer (shown in red). The device showcases the power of the memristors.  (Source: Qiangfei Xia, HP )
HP's new integral circuit component allows engineers to produce identical logic circuits using fewer transistors and less space

The goal of chipmakers has always been to push Moore's Law, squeezing more and more transistors into a smaller space.  But what if you could do more with fewer transistors?  That's the intriguing potential of HP's memristor, which joins the standard resistor, the capacitor, and the inductors as a fabled fourth integral circuit component.

First envisioned in 1971 by Berkeley professor Leon Chua, a memristor is a device which can vary its resistance based on the magnitude and direction of the voltage of an applied signal.  Furthermore, it retains its resistance state even if it is powered off.

Rediscovering Professor Chua's groundbreaking, but largely overlooked work, engineers and researchers at HP Labs dug into the problem of creating a memristor on the nanoscale.  In May they finally succeeded, creating the world's first memristor.

This week at the newly created Memristor and Memristor Systems Symposium, in Berkeley, CA the true potential of the unleashed memristor has finally begun to be seen.  One thing is clear -- the little device has the potential to rock the entire hardware industry.

When paired with transistors, memristors can be used to create new and unique circuits that function exactly like circuits with many more transistors.  The new circuits are much smaller and consume far less power.  In short, memristors allow you to do more with less.

Lead researcher Stan Williams, a senior research fellow at HP, states, "We're trying to give Moore's Law a boost."

Indeed, HP's new invention could allow licensed chipmakers to not only continue Moore's law, but to almost instantly leap ahead, shifting Moore's law years ahead.  Williams describes this new mentality, stating, "We're not trying to crowd more transistors onto a chip or into a particular circuit.  Hybrid memristor-transistor chips really have the promise for delivering a lot more performance."

In the past chipmakers have developed circuit elements consisting of multiple transistors to do the job that a single memristor does.  By chopping out these transistors and putting a memristor in their place, the circuit uses less power and is shrunk.  HP has demonstrated such a deployment in the first ever working memristor-transistor hybrid chip

Mr. Williams says making the device was easier than expected.  He states, "Because memristors are made of the same materials used in normal integrated circuits it turns out to be very easy to integrate them with transistors."

Mr. Williams and HP researcher Qiangfei Xia led a team which developed the circuit, a new type of field-programmable gate array (FPGA) which uses far fewer transistors by employing semiconductor titanium dioxide memristors. 

FPGAs are reprogrammable hardware circuits, one of the hottest fields in computer engineering today.  While FPGAs are frequently used by engineers to test their circuit designs on a smaller scale, as they're reconfigurable, they're too expensive, slow, and power-hungry for normal circuits.  Typically they are replaced by leaner dedicated circuits based on the optimized FPGA design.  Mr. Williams continues, "When you decide what logic operation you want to do, you actually flip a bunch of switches and configuration bits in the circuit.  What we're looking at is essentially pulling out all of the configuration bits and all of the transistor switches."

The new memristor-sporting FPGA design is more compact, more affordable, and uses far less power.  In short, it could become the first FPGA to be a viable competitor to dedicated silicon circuits.  The potential is impressive; imagine buying AMD or NVIDIA's latest graphics card and receiving regular hardware updates to increase performance and remove errata.  As Mr. Williams puts it, "If our ideas work out, this type of FPGA will completely change the balance."

Aside from traditional processing circuits, memristors are also very promising for flash memory, and could greatly reduce its cost.

HP researchers say that the biggest obstacle to memristor circuits is the lack of familiarity among engineers with the device.  However Mr. Williams and others at HP assure that the public will see memristor circuits within three years, and that the device has the potential to eventually transform the entire computing industry.



Comments     Threshold


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

RE: Let me see if I understand...
By MozeeToby on 11/26/2008 12:10:16 PM , Rating: 2
That's not quite right. It's more like memristors have theoretically existed for 30 years, and until now we have been kludging together work arounds using transistors because no one knew how to build a memristor.

Now that we can make memristors, we can remove a big chunk of transistors since all they were doing was simulating a single memristor. And when you have thousands of memristors being simulated in the circuit, that can add up fast.


RE: Let me see if I understand...
By Spivonious on 11/26/2008 12:57:32 PM , Rating: 2
So aside from the obvious use of these as nonvolatile memory, what other uses are there? Like how would these help make CPUs better?


RE: Let me see if I understand...
By skaaman on 11/26/2008 3:30:40 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
The new memristor-sporting FPGA design is more compact, more affordable, and uses far less power. In short, it could become the first FPGA to be a viable competitor to dedicated silicon circuits. The potential is impressive; imagine buying AMD or NVIDIA's latest graphics card and receiving regular hardware updates to increase performance and remove errata. As Mr. Williams puts it, "If our ideas work out, this type of FPGA will completely change the balance."


It has the potential to take us from fixed silicon designs to reprogrammable designs. As the article mentions FPGA's are currently too expensive and power hungry to implement in production designs (while great for testing new designs.)

So, hypothetically, lets say AMD's Barcelona processors were able to implement FPGA's with Memristors. The TLB bug could have simply been corrected at the chip level vs a software patch (if I read this correctly...)

Sounds like very promising stuff.


"There is a single light of science, and to brighten it anywhere is to brighten it everywhere." -- Isaac Asimov














botimage
Copyright 2014 DailyTech LLC. - RSS Feed | Advertise | About Us | Ethics | FAQ | Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information | Kristopher Kubicki