Hewlett-Packard and Hynix will work to bring memristor products to market. Memristors could eventually replace not only traditional memory technologies such as Flash and hard drives, but also CPUs.
Hewlett-Packard is about three years away from taking its memristor
technology from the research lab to the marketplace.
HP officials announced Aug. 31 that the company has entered
into a joint development agreement with memory supplier Hynix Semiconductor to
develop and bring the technology to future products.
The two companies together will put in place the necessary
materials and processes to commercially develop the memristor technology, which
is being developed under the name of ReRAM (Resistive Random Access Memory) and
will be manufactured in Hynix's fabs.
The result, according to HP officials, will be a technology
that will perform better than the current Flash technology found on such
devices as mobile handsets, and that will be 100 times faster, significantly
smaller and consume a tenth of the energy.
"This is going to change the memory industry," HP
Senior Fellow Stan Williams, founding director of HP Labs' Information and
Quantum Systems Lab, said in a video on the HP Website. "This is going to
allow us to continue scaling-in other words, go to higher and higher
densities-as [the industry did] with Flash, but actually with a product that
has the capability and capacity, we all believe, to replace both hard disks and
DRAM [dynamic RAM]
memory in computers."
The memristor-short for memory resistor-is viewed by HP
engineers as the fourth basic circuit element in chip engineering, up there
with the resistor, capacitor and inductor. At its core, the memristor is a
resistor with memory.
The idea behind the memristor was first broached in 1971 by
Prof. Leon Chua at the University of California
- Berkeley. HP researchers first showed
the memristor's existence in practice.
Two years later, Nature
published HP's finding
that the memristor exists, and in 2009, engineers at
HP Labs showed that memristors could be stacked, suggesting that a chip could
offer four to eight times the memory capacity of traditional technologies.
In April 2010, HP officials said company researchers had found
that the memristor also could perform digital logic, setting the stage for the
creation of a memristor product that could act
as both a computing chip and a storage technology,
taking the place of
traditional storage technologies-including Flash and hard drives-and CPUs.
"Memristive devices could change the standard paradigm of
computing by enabling calculations to be performed in the chips where data is
stored," Williams said in April. "Thus, we anticipate the ability to
make more compact and power-efficient computing systems well into the future,
even after it is no longer possible to make transistors smaller via the
traditional Moore's Law
Memristor technology is a form of nonvolatile memory that HP
officials said they believe could be used in everything from mobile phones and
MP3 players, which primarily use NAND flash memory now, to SSD
(solid-state disk) and DRAM storage
Memristors, which use less energy than other memory devices and
can retain information when the power is off, are built from metal oxides like
titanium dioxide rather than silicon.
"The memristor has storage capacity abilities many times
greater than what competing technologies offer," S.W.
Park, executive vice president and CTO
of Hynix, said in a statement. "By adopting HP's memristor technology, we
can deliver new, energy-efficient products to our customers more quickly."