This week computer manufacturer HP announced it is teaming up with chip-maker Hynix to bring the first memristors, or memory resistors, to market within three years. Able to store information even without a source of power, memristors have been hailed as a way to keep up with Moore’s Law.
Moore’s Law is that old adage, first uttered by Intel’s Gordon Moore in the 1960s, that the number of transistors one could fit on an integrated circuit should double every couple years or so.
But industry consensus had shifted in recent years to a widespread belief that the end of physical progress in shrinking the size modern semiconductors was imminent. Chip makers are now confronted by such severe physical and financial challenges that they are spending $4 billion or more for each new advanced chip-making factory. [The New York Times]
“Memristors” are four decades in the making, but it turns out that this fourth kind of circuit element (beyond the inductor, capacitor, and resistor) might have more potential to change computing than even its creators first believed.
In a study this week in Nature, researchers with Hewlett-Packard report that they’ve achieved “stateful logic” with their memristor, whose name derives from a mashup of “memory” and “resistor.” In a nutshell, stateful logic means that the ‘state’ of the memristor acts as both the computer and the memory. That’s a pretty big change from current computers, which typically load data from memory, perform operations on it, and then send it back [Nature]. In addition, memristors can store information even in the absence of electrical current.