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 user 2008-05-01 at 2:07:57 pm Views: 56
  • #19522

    HP pulls memory Missing Link from bottle of beer
    than 35 years ago, when the world assumed that circuits were crafted
    from three basic building blocks, a man named Leon Chua predicted the
    existence of a fourth.The capacitor, the resistor, and the inductor, he
    said, would be joined by something called the memristor. Today,
    scientists at HP Labs announced that this prediction was right on the
    money.After a good five years of work, HP Labs Fellow R. Stanley
    Williams and his team have actually built a memristor – a resistor that
    stores information even after losing power. With this new electrical
    building block, chip manufacturers could reinvent modern memory
    technology, delivering machines that are far more efficient and that
    boot instantly.

    Naturally, HP is trumpeting this as a cure-all for all those data centers up in the cloud.
    Chua’s memristor wasn’t much more than a math project. Looking for a
    unified mathematical theory for electrical circuits, the University of
    California prof noticed a gap in the equations that traditionally
    describe such circuits.”He saw that there were patterns in those
    circuit equations, and in looking at those patterns, he noticed a
    hole,” Williams tells us. “But he could drop a new equation into this
    hole that completed the symmetry – the aesthetic view – of his theory.
    And this equation told him that there must be a fourth fundamental
    device we don’t yet have.”Chua could predict the behavior of this
    fourth building block – he knew it could remember charges without power
    - but he couldn’t actually build one. That would require the advent of
    nanotechnology – and some extra work from Williams and company.HP’s
    nano-scale memristor is fashioned from two layers of the semiconductor
    titanium dioxide – one that includes tiny “oxygen vacancies” and one
    that doesn’t. The top layer – with the vacancies – is conductive. The
    bottom layer – without – is not.

    If you send a voltage across
    the device, you can push the vacancies from one layer to the other.
    That’s your switch.”You can switch the bottom layer of titanium oxide
    from being highly insulating to being highly conductive,” Williams
    says. “You can make the resistance of the device decrease by a factor
    of a million.” Then, with different voltage, you can push the vacancies
    back into the first layer, flipping your switch the other way.Williams
    compares this to a bottle of beer turned upside-down. “A vacancy moving
    through titanium dioxide is sort of like a bubble moving through beer,”
    he explains. “If you turn a bottle of beer upside-down, gravity pulls
    the beer down and the bubbles float up. It’s the same with our
    vacancies – except we’re using a voltage rather than gravity.”But the
    key here is that HP’s memristor can remember its state even without
    power. “It knows how much voltage you put on the device, in which
    direction you held it, and how long you held it there.”In other words,
    it’s nonvolatile memory – with a few advantages over flash. “It holds
    its memory longer,” Williams says. “It’s simpler. It’s easier to make -
    which means it’s cheaper – and it can be switched a lot faster, with
    less energy.”But even Williams admits that flash maintains one large
    advantage over his brand new building block. “Flash is a real product.
    You can go out and buy it now.” The memristor may drive the cloud. But
    not for awhile.