HP could be producing Memristors in 2009

HP scientists have now successfully engineered control over how the device functions. This means it is now possible to design memristors into integrated circuits that remember information, consume far less power than existing devices and may someday learn from past behavior. The EEtimes, reports that the advance promises to speed development of commercial prototype chips for its RRAM (resistive random-access memory) by next year.

Meanwhile Samsung is pressing ahead with rapid flash SSD drives

Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. has started volume production of its 1.8- and 2.5-inch multi-level cell (MLC)-based solid state drives (SSD) with a 128 Gigabyte (GB) storage capacity. Mass production of the Samsung MLC-based 64GB SSD also began this month. They will begin producing a 256GB version at the end of this year, and that it expects sales of SSD units to increase 800 percent between now and 2010. You can expect the new Samsung SSDs to be cheap by comparison to SLC-based SSDs and faster by comparison to traditional laptop hard disk drives while lasting about 20 times longer than the expected 4-5 year life span of that mechanical spinner.
OCZ is now shipping 128GB SSD drives for $479 This site would expect Samsung pricing to be similar. 128GB SSD drives have been available for a few thousand dollars. Samsung is the largest producer of Flash memory. High volume production for Samsung and increasing the overall market by 800% over two years probably means 4 times lower costs to go with 8 times more units for an overall market dollar size increase of double.

“With engineering control, we can build a device that delivers a specific electrical performance,” says Duncan Stewart, principal investigator. “Only then do you get to a point where you can build large integrated circuits.”

HP Labs scientists who in April proved the existence of the memristor have made another significant advance toward developing a new type of computer memory that’s many times faster than Flash and could lead to analog computers that process information in a manner similar to the human brain.

The researchers, members of the Information and Quantum Systems Lab led by HP Senior Fellow R. Stanley Williams, published their experimental findings in the advance online editon of the July issue of the journal Nature Nanotechnology.

The team conducted its experiments by building a nanoscale memristor switch – at 50 nanometers by 50 nanometers, it is the world’s smallest – that contained a layer of titanium dioxide (a chemical commonly used in both sunscreen and white paint) between two nanowires. As its name implies, titanium dioxide typically comprises one titanium atom for every two oxygen atoms.

Scientist Jianhua Yang found that by subtly manipulating the distribution of the oxygen atoms in this layer, he could control how the device functioned. Although other labs have demonstrated switching using similar materials, none have achieved this level of control over the switches.

Faster, cheaper nonvolatile RAM

A memristive device can operate in both digital and analog modes, each of which has different applications.

In digital mode, it could replace today’s solid-state memories (Flash) with much faster and less expensive nonvolatile random access memory (NVRAM). That would enable digital cameras without a delay between photos, for example, or computers that save power by turning off when not needed and then turning back on instantly when needed.

Because it is built at nanoscale, the NVRAM chip would also be denser, giving chipmakers the ability to pack more information into a smaller space.

Computers that learn

Longer term, in its analog mode, the memristor could possibly enable computers that “learn” what you want.

“Any learning a computer displays today is the result of software,” says Yang. “What we’re talking about is the computer itself – the hardware – being able to learn.”

That’s not to say the computer would function like a human brain. But it could gain pattern-matching abilities would let it adapt its user interface based on how you use it. These same abilities make it ideal for such artificial intelligence applications as recognizing faces or understanding speech.

“When John Von Neumann first proposed computing machines 60 years ago, he proposed they function the way the brain does,” says Stewart. “That would have meant analog parallel computing, but it was impossible to build at that time. Instead, we got digital serial computers.”

Now it may be possible to build large-scale analog parallel computing machines, he says.

Memristor questions answered

The memristor is well suited for FPGA designs.

3 thoughts on “HP could be producing Memristors in 2009”

  1. I have heard of the concept. It is nice to see that work continues on it.

    I have always considered the idea of nano-machines actually constructing complex things like themselves or large objects by collective behavior to be difficult to swallow. The idea of a fabricator that makes components at different scales is a bit easier to envision. But this is one means of self assembly that actually sounds like it would have real applications.

    It would be risky to try and pinpoint what the first or final applications will be though making new materials would be high on my list of guesses. A self-assembling scaffold might result in materials with improved strength to weight ratios – possibly with specific conductive or magnetic properties. One might grow substances where these and other properties vary in a specifically designed manner through the material.

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