Stan Williams, Hewlett-Packard senior fellow and director of the company's cognitive systems laboratory, recently said that the company has decided to postpone manufacturing commercial memristor-based ReRAM (resistive random access memory) products until late 2013. The company originally planned to go into production during 2Q/3Q 2013.
"We'll have something technologically viable by the end of next year. It's sad to say, but the science and technology are the easy part," he told The Kavli Foundation. "The economics, investment, and market readiness are harder."
He went on to explain that Hynix, a major producer of flash memory that co-developed ReRAM with HP, will see its existing business "cannibalized" by memristors because they will replace some of its flash memory products. That means timing the introduction of memristors will be extremely important for the entire industry.
"There's a lot more money being spent on understanding and modeling the market than on any of the research," he said. "Development costs at least 10 times as much as research, and commercialization costs 10 times as much as development. So in the end, research -- which we think is the most important part -- is only 1-percent of the effort."
Short for "memory resistor", memristors can retain information even when powered off, requires less energy to operate, and is faster than current SSD technology. As current flows through the memristor in one direction, the electrical resistance increases – it decreases when current flows in the opposite direction. When the current stops, the memristor retains the last resistance that it had. Once the flow resumes, the circuit returns to what it was when it was last active.
HP began developing a switching memristor back in 2008, based on a thin film of titanium dioxide. At the time, the company predicted the tech would be commercially available 18 months later. Even more, HP said it will serve as a replacement for DRAM, SRAM, Flash and SSDs.
"One important aspect of memristors is that they are simple structures made from materials and processes already used in semiconductor foundries," Williams added. "This is critical, because we would face tremendous resistance if we asked the industry to change technologies. But they don't have to change. If you know what you're doing - and there's a lot of intellectual property involved - literally any foundry could make memristors tomorrow."
With commercial manufacturing of ReRAM not starting until the end of 2013, products utilizing this new tech – such as smartphones, tablets and more – likely won't show up on store shelves until 2015 or 2016.