HP memristors will reinvent computer memory ‘by 2014′

July 13, 2012 | Source: Wired Enterprise

Atomic Force Microscope image of a memristor circuit array (credit: HP Laboratories)

HP is two and half years away from offering hardware that stores data with memristors, a new breed of electrical building-block that could lead to servers and other devices that are far more efficient than today’s machines.

As reported by The Register, at a recent conference in Oxnard, California, HP’s Stan Williams said that commercial memristor hardware will be available by the end of 2014 at the earliest.

Historically, electrical circuits were crafted with three basic building blocks: the capacitor, the resistor, and the inductor. But in 1971, University of California at Berkeley professor Leon Chua predicted the existence of a fourth: the memristor, short for memory resistor.

Like an ordinary resistor, a memristor would create and maintain a safe flow of electrical current across a device, but unlike a resistor, it would “remember” charges even when it lost power. This would allow it to store information — i.e., serve as computer memory.

In May 2008, HP announced that it had actually built a memristor, thanks to HP Labs Fellow R. Stanley Williams and others working in the company’s research arm. Williams and team fashioned their memristor using the semiconductor titanium dioxide.

The device, Williams said at the time, could provide a more efficient form of non-volatile memory — memory that can retain its information even when it loses power. According to Williams, it will significantly outperform flash memory — which is used today in smartphones, tablets, and even data centers.

“[The memristor] holds its memory longer,” Williams said. “It’s simpler. It’s easier to make — which means it’s cheaper — and it can be switched a lot faster, with less energy.”