Dawn of potentially revolutionary era in computing

Hewlett-Packard announced today that they’ve succeeded in building “memristors”:

simpler than today’s semiconducting transistors, [memristors] can store information even in the absence of an electrical current and, according to a report in Nature, can be used for both data processing and storage applications.

The researchers previously reported in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that they had devised a new method for storing and retrieving information from a vast three-dimensional array of memristors. The scheme could potentially free designers to stack thousands of switches in a high-rise fashion, permitting a new class of ultradense computing devices even after two-dimensional scaling reaches fundamental limits…

“Our brains are made of memristors,” [Dr. Chua] said, referring to the function of biological synapses. “We have the right stuff now to build real brains.”

…The most advanced transistor technology today is based on minimum feature sizes of 30 to 40 nanometers — by contrast a biological virus is typically about 100 nanometers — and Dr. Williams said that H.P. now has working 3-nanometer memristors that can switch on and off in about a nanosecond, or a billionth of a second.

He said the company could have a competitor to flash memory in three years that would have a capacity of 20 gigabytes a square centimeter….

The H.P. technology is based on the ability to use an electrical current to move atoms within an ultrathin film of titanium dioxide. After the location of an atom has been shifted, even by as little as a nanometer, the result can be read as a change in the resistance of the material. That change persists even after the current is switched off, making it possible to build an extremely low-power device.

Posted by James on Thursday, April 08, 2010