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Transistor Successor Set to Bring on 'the Machine' Age Soon

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Circuit diagram of an HP memristor.

Memristors combine the best characteristics of dynamic and flash memory.

Credit: Hewlett-Packard

Researchers at Hewlett-Packard's (HP) Information and Quantum Systems laboratory are working to develop memristors, a response to the diminishing return of the transistor technology used in today's computer chips that will combine the best characteristics of both dynamic and flash memory.

Unlike transistors, memristors can occupy a range of states between on and off. Researchers believe memristor-based computer chips will be more energy-efficient and better able to handle the flood of data many expect as the countless embedded devices making up the Internet of Things comes online. HP hit upon the memristor idea, originally proposed in the 1970s, while researching the future of ever-smaller transistors.

The first functioning memristor array was built in 2012 by HRL Labs. HRL and HP are developing memristor technology so chips using it can be made using the existing complementary metal-oxide semiconductor manufacturing process. Many expected memristor technology to develop faster than it has, but HP now expects to begin putting memristors into production in 2015, making the technology available first in the form of dual in-line memory modules in 2016.

Although memristors likely will integrate with existing hardware and software at first, many expect the technology to lead to fundamental redesigns of computer architecture and operating systems.

From Scientific American
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Abstracts Copyright © 2014 Information Inc., Bethesda, Maryland, USA


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