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HP Labs Proves Circuit Technology That Boosts Super Memory

After years of research, HP has proved that there is a new circuit element, a memristor, that could mean you will never again have to shut down or reboot your computer.

circuit memory

This fourth fundamental circuit element, known as a memristor, could make it possible to develop computer systems that have memories that do not forget, do not need to be booted up, consume far less power and associate information in a manner similar to that of the human brain.

Various applications could potentially be developed using a memristor, such as a new kind of computer memory that would supplement and eventually replace today's commonly used dynamic random access memory (DRAM). This is significant because computers using conventional DRAM lack the ability to retain information once they lose power, HP said. When power is restored to a DRAM-based computer, a slow, energy-consuming "boot-up" process is necessary to retrieve data from a magnetic disk required to run the system.

Memristor-based memory and storage has the potential to lower power consumption and provide greater resiliency and reliability in the face of power interruptions to a data center, according to HP.

In addition, memristor technology could play an important part in complex setups such as cloud computing, which requires an IT infrastructure of hundreds of thousands of servers and storage systems.

Thirty-seven years ago, Leon Chua, a distinguished faculty member in the Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences Department of the University of California at Berkeley, hypothesized that in addition to the resistor, capacitor and inductor, a fourth element, what he called the , memristor, had properties that could not be duplicated by any combination of the other three elements.

David Harrah, an HP spokesman, said that about five years ago, lead HP researcher R. Stanley Williams at HP Labs' Information and Quantum Systems Lab, began working on building circuits on a nanoscale. Another researcher at the lab told Williams that his model looked like what Chua had described in his research as a memristor, a combination of "memory resistor," and which was described as having the unique property of retaining a history of the information it has acquired. Williams then read the paper, worked with the math and tried to create a physics model of a memristor.

Along with four other researchers at HP Labs' Information and Quantum Systems Lab, Williams wrote a paper about the technology that was published in today's edition of the scientific journal Nature.

Developing memristor technology on a commerical level will take some time before it is available in PCs at your local Best Buy.

"Engineers never known that this existed and they have to learn about it and train with it, so it will take a few years to productize it," said Harrah. "Other issues need to be approached, such as incorporating EDA software. The good news is that it doesn't require any new processes or materials then what is already being used at fabrication facilities."

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