By 17 May 2011 | Categories: news


Researchers at HP Labs recently reported achieving a new breakthrough in the development of memristors, a fourth circuit element capable of replacing flash memory and perhaps even hard disks and DRAM.

According to PCMag, the so-called memristor is the fourth fundamental circuit element, in addition to the resistor, capacitor and inductor we're already familiar with.

The thing that sets them apart is that memristors, unlike regular resistors, changes its resistance as a current passes through it, and remembering that state even when the current is gone. In other words, like flash memory it is nonvolatile, meaning it will remember its previous state even without power.

The new technology holds a lot of promise, with memristors theoretically capable of transfer speeds ten times faster than flash memory at one-tenth of the power requirements. They can also be stacked, enabling dense memory structures to be built, and their ability to switch on and off in a nanosecond also holds promise.

Memristors can also be manufactured to be extremely tiny. HP researcher Stan Williams told the New York Times that they are working on devices with three nanometer memristors that switch on and off in a nanosecond and could store a whopping 20 GB of data per square cm.

The nature of memristors also allows it to perform processing and store information simultaneously, which could lead to new devices and new ways to process and store data. It's even thought that the technology will aid us in developing machines that think similarly to humans, although that's still a long way off. For now, it seems memristors might be signalling the end of flash memory, hard disks and even DRAM as we know it.

The research paper has been published in the journal Nanotechnology, with the HP researchers describing how they utilised x-rays to examine the tiny structure of the memristors.


Magazine Online is South Africa's leading magazine for tech product reviews, tech news, videos, tech specs and gadgets.
Start reading now >
Download latest issue

Have Your Say

What new tech or developments are you most anticipating this year?
New smartphone announcements (44 votes)
Technological breakthroughs (28 votes)
Launch of new consoles, or notebooks (14 votes)
Innovative Artificial Intelligence solutions (28 votes)
Biotechnology or medical advancements (21 votes)
Better business applications (132 votes)