Posted: April 8, 2010

HP Labs discovery holds potential to fundamentally change computer system design

(Nanowerk News) HP today announced advancements in research from HP Labs – the company’s central research arm – that could change the way computer systems are designed while better equipping them to process the current “information explosion.”
HP Labs researchers have discovered that the “memristor“ – a resistor with memory that represents the fourth basic circuit element in electrical engineering – has more capabilities than was previously thought. In addition to being useful in storage devices, the memristor can perform logic, enabling computation to one day be performed in chips where data is stored, rather than on a specialized central processing unit.
  • The latest findings about the memristor are detailed in a paper published this week in the journal “Nature” by six researchers at HP’s Information and Quantum Systems Lab, led by R. Stanley Williams. These developments follow the HP Labs team’s first demonstration of the existence of the memristor in 2008.
  • HP has created development-ready architectures for memory chips using memristors and believes it is possible that devices incorporating the element could come to market within the next few years.
  • HP researchers also have designed a new architecture within which multiple layers of memristor memory can be stacked on top of each other in a single chip. In five years, such chips could be used to create handheld devices that offer ten times greater embedded memory than exists today or to power supercomputers that allow work like movie rendering and genomic research to be done dramatically faster than Moore’s Law suggests is possible.
  • Eventually, memristor-based processors might replace the silicon in the smart display screens found in e-readers and could one day even become the successors to silicon on a larger scale.
  • Memristor chips and energy use
  • Memristors require less energy to operate and are faster than present solid-state storage technologies such as flash memory, and they can store at least twice as much data in the same area.
  • Memristors are virtually immune from radiation, which can disrupt transistor-based technologies – making them an attractive way to enable ever smaller but ever more powerful devices.
  • Because they do not “forget,” memristors can enable computers that turn on and off like a light switch.
  • Source: HP Labs