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HP's "Memristor" Could Replace Transistors

The New York Times reports that a team of Hewlett-Packard scientists have designed an electrical resistor with memory properties called "memristor." The technology is simpler than existing transistors, and do not require a constant electrical current to retain information. Originally revealed in the science journal Nature Wednesday, the team believes that its new memory technology will lead to powerful yet extremely small computers that imitate biological functions.

The article covers different applications of memristor including to possibility of creating dense memory chips that use less power than DRAM memory chips of today. But the big bonus prize is that HP's technology can store and retrieve values outside the standard 1's and 0's--a vast array of intermediate values as the NYT claims--allowing the resistors to function like biological synapses.

With that said, this could be a breakthrough for artificial intelligence development, leading to a possible understanding of speech or actual machine "vision." R. Stanley Williams, director of the quantum science research group at H.P., believes that the memristor technology should become commercialized rather quick. "This is on a fast track," he said.

The group stumbled upon the new technology while looking for a new class of organic molecules to serve as nano-sized switches. The research, spanning decades, would eventually lead to switches the size of a single molecule, and take the place of electronic circuits made with photolithographic techniques. However the researchers instead found memory properties in thin spots of titanium dioxide, thus leading them to the current memristor technology today.

“I can see all kinds of new technologies and I’m thrilled,” Williams said. For the full article, head over to the New York Times here.