Monday, May 05, 2008

Memristors what amazing potential

If your into physics or electrical circuits you may have already heard of the term memristor. If you have not heard the term before a memristor is a fourth type of passive circuit element to go along with capacitor, resistor and inductor. So you say I've heard of the other circuit element types but not memristor why is that. Well until recently no one had been able to build a memristor even though they had been theorized 37 years ago by Leon Chua. But recently researchers at HP Labs using nanotechnology have solved that problem and have built a working memristor prototype. So now you say what good is a memristor, well as the name implies one use would be memory. But you say current DRAM memory works well already and DRAM is fast what advantage would using a memristor have. Well first memristor based memory needs no power to retain its state, so for example if you hibernate your PC, resuming your PC would be nearly instantaneous like flipping on a light switch. So that sounds good memristors are energy efficient but memristors are also fast possibly many times faster than current DRAM. Then you have size, memristors are small and memristors actually function better the smaller they get. To get an idea of the size of the memristors in the HP prototype the prototype puts 100 Gigabits onto a square centimeter vs. 16 Gigabits for current flash memory technology. In addition HP thinks they can further improve the density of the current prototype to allow 1 Terabit or more to be contained on a sq. cm. in future updates. Next memristors not only operate in digital 0's or 1's they are also analog in nature. So assuming you can get a memristor to store 256 measurable states you now have increased your storage density by 2 to the 8 power. Aside from memory applications another exciting possibility due to the analog nature of memristors may be various neural network applications such as image recognition. So unless memristor technology encounters a fatal manufacturing hurtle I would say the potential for memristors is truly amazing.

If you want to read further about memristors here is a link to my Delicious bookmarks on the subject. I have also found a Google Group called - Memristor Computer Programming


Ambassador Grenok said...
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Anonymous said...

A potentially very useful application of memristors is in AI. Memristors can mimic the self-pruning extensions of neurons - dendrites. Nothing else can efficiently do that.

Jim said...

Good point so another reason memristors show lots of potential let's see if they live up to there potential. Please pass along any other insights or potential uses, I'm always interested in where a technology with this potential may lead.