It’s not often that a chance comes around to see something of this kind of exciting magnitude. Today HP issued a press release announcing the proof of existence of memristors.
HP today announced that researchers from HP Labs, the company’s central research facility, have proven the existence of what had previously been only theorized as the fourth fundamental circuit element in electrical engineering. (…)
In a paper published in today’s edition of Nature, four researchers at HP Labs’ Information and Quantum Systems Lab, led by R. Stanley Williams, presented the mathematical model and a physical example of a ““memristorÃ¢â‚¬Â Ã¢â‚¬” a blend of ““memory resistorÃ¢â‚¬Â Ã¢â‚¬” which has the unique property of retaining a history of the information it has acquired.
While we are undoubtedly years away from commercial application of this discovery, this could completely change the landscape of computing. From personal computing through enterprise applications, memory usage is growing by leaps and bounds. Fast access to memory that retains its stored data is an enormous leap, far more than what we have with today’s flash memory.
One application for this research could be the development of a new kind of computer memory that would supplement and eventually replace today’s commonly used dynamic random access memory (DRAM). Computers using conventional DRAM lack the ability to retain information once they lose power. When power is restored to a DRAM-based computer, a slow, energy-consuming ““boot-upÃ¢â‚¬Â process is necessary to retrieve data from a magnetic disk required to run the system.
In contrast, a memristor-based computer would retain its information after losing power and would not require the boot-up process, resulting in the consumption of less power and wasted time.
I’m extremely excited about this new discovery. Although the existence of the memristor has been theorized since 1971 in a paper by Professor Leon Chua, no one had been able to prove its existence until now. Given the advances in nanotechnology over the last several years, we’ve finally reached the point of being about to build memristors. This could fundamentally change computers by nearly eliminating boot times, reducing power consumption, and reducing in general the time we wait on computers. In my mind, that is at least as exciting as a new battery technology. :-)
This research comes from HP Labs, the scary-smart people who dream up new technological advances well before we know we need them. If you want to see some fascinating research, browse around HP Labs technical reports. They can get quite in-depth, but they’re interesting reading.