As the time passes advancement level of technology in computers rises exponentially, but this speed is limited due to the properties of the materials and the architecture we use in our chips. The evidence of this problem can be seen if we look into Moore’s law. According to Moore the number of transistors in an integrated circuit must double every two years. However, we have been falling behind in the DRAM evolution. To solve this problem Hewlett Packard started a new project and invested on a new storage technology called memristor.
To understand the capabilities of memristor, we should firstly understand what it is. The name comes from shortening “memory resistor.” Memristor is one of the four classes of an electrical circuit, which are coined by Leon Chua. The other three are resistor, inductor and capacitor, which are built in Chua’s time but the technology wasn’t advanced enough to build the memristor. In 2005, a group of scientists in Hewlett Packard discovered that Titanium Dioxide’s ionising capabilities could be the missing key to the memristor technology. What it basically does is it remembers the current that flows within with the help of Oxygen ions and when the current stops it remembers the last resistance value inside. In another words: the memristor technology is a new relevance for developing a high density nonvolatile universal memory as well as computational functionality beyond CMOS technology.(quoted in Bipolar Memristor) To use in a computer memristors are built in thin layers and as stacks in a matrix grid. This way the chip is expanded in three dimensions and saves lots of space in the motherboard.
Hewlett Packard plans that memristors will be used either as flash drives or as a Random Access Memory. There are big differences between a semiconductor RAM and memristor RAM, The first one is the nonvolatility of the memristor. When the device is turned off memory isn’t lost like in the semiconductor RAM. The memristor remembers the info it storages and when the computer is turned on it will begin at the exact point of power cut. This means we will say goodbye to the Windows startup screens and continue to the work wherever we have left.
Another aspect of the difference of a memristor is it’s faster, smaller and more energy efficient than any type of commercial memory systems. According to the table above memristor seems to be the best solution to use in our computers. One of the most energy consuming element of our computers is the RAM and the memristor technology will be around ten times more energy efficient. As explained before, memristor is built as stacks and has the most efficient chip area per bit performance. Thus, integration of memristors to mobile devices like smartphones, smart watches, wearable technologies and nanotechnologies will be easy and fast.
With a new technology certainly comes some development and integration problems. Due to the possible changes inside the RAM memristor requires a different type of computer language. The reason is it is a totally different type of system; it requires much more complex algorithms and different type of data computing systems. “O perating systems have not been taught what to do with all of this memory, and HP will have to get very creative,” Papadopoulos says. “Things like the chips from Intel just never anticipated this”(Vance) To overcome this problem HP has released a developer kit for this language with an emulator.With those two HP’s engineers can develop and improve operating systems and programs even without a memristor. Another drawback is that memristor technology is in it’s baby steps. It still requires resources and time to consummate it.
There are some possible usage areas of the memristor type storage. HP plans to use the memristor in “The Moonshot”; a prototype server that combines memristor, photonics and semiconductor technologies. “I n theory, that would remove the need for a conventional slow disk/fast memory system. With the Machine’s main chips sitting on motherboards right next to the memristors, they can access any needed information almost instantly.” (Ashlee Vance). HP claims that the Moonshot has 320 TB memory, 77% less costly, uses 89% less energy and lightning fast. Moreover, when the memristor technology is commercialised those new generation computers may be used in workplaces or in our houses. O pening twenty or
more tabs on a browser, watching an ultra HD movie and playing a new released high graphic action game simultaneously will not be a bother for the new computers. The main reason behind is memristor will have a high memory close to the main chips and the capacity of memristor RAM will be many more times bigger than today’s average. This means a single computer will be sufficient for many people to use in a workspace or in houses. The biggest advantage of it will be the space conservation. All a person will need to use the computer is a keyboard, a screen and a mouse, which also may be wirelessly connected to the main computer in the building. Other than this, a memristor may be used as an augmentation to our brains. A group of scientists have succeeded to mimicry Pavlov’s Dog: “It is demonstrated that a single Pt/Ge0.3Se0.7/SiO2/Cu memristive device implemented in an analogue circuitry mimics nonassociative and associative types of learning.” When improved, we may be able to store binary data in our brains.
I hope that the prototypes will succeed and the technology will be consummated in a really short time. HP claims that it will take a minimum of four years to use the memristors in our homes. Until that time we will stick to the traditional computer software and hardware, waiting for the big changes that will happen in the computer industry.