HP’s memristors are in the news again as they announce that they will be moving into production devices soon.
The development of memristors was first suggested in 1971 by IEEE Fellow and nonlinear-circuit-theory pioneer Leon Chua, of the University of California, Berkeley, when he theorized the existence of a fourth basic integrated circuits element called the memory resistor. This would complement the other three elements (resistor, transistor, capacitor) by blending features of (flash) memory and resistors.
What’s the big deal?
The memristor stands to deliver on a few fronts:
- lower power consumption
- increased density
- combination of logic circuits on the same chips as the memory.
These are tremendous features — and will allow for vastly higher densities of processors and memory, along with reductions in the energy wasted as heat and necessary for cooling. In as few as three years your USB thumb-drive will have memristors in it, doubling the then-current capacity of normal flash memory and running at ten times the speed. Thanks to the logic available on the chip, it might even have a minimal embedded operating system or program on it, perhaps for added security.
And that last bit about combining logic and memory on the same chip may be very interesting to those scientists working on AI, since the memristor mimics the form and function of the human brain’s synapses. (Can you say, “Hello, Data!”)
It’s so exciting — this is the next great leap of computing, on the same scale as the transistor… we live in such interesting times!