SELLER OF EXPENSIVE PRINTER INK HP has signed a deal with the chipmaker Hynix to commercialise its memristor technology.
The innovative memory technology allows more computer memory to be stuffed onto smaller devices. HP and Hynix said we can expect to see something on the shelves in about three years.
The most likely application of memristors is for dense nonvolatile memories, like flash memory cards for products like cameras and PCs.
But the boffins at HP and Hynix think that it could play a role in other kinds of chips.
The idea was first worked out by Leon O Chua, a University of California at Berkeley electrical engineering professor.
In 1971, he worked out the idea for a fourth basic circuit element to join the resistor, capacitor and inductor. His memristor, or memory resistor was a simpler alternative to transistors. As you might expect it did not really go anywhere until a team of HP boffins figured out how to make it in 2006.
So far memristors are viewed as laboratory and academic experiments and manufacturers have used Phase Change Memory instead.
But HP boffins say that the memristor outperforms flash. Its tiny switches can be turned on and off more than 100 times faster than flash, use a tenth of the energy and have a much longer lifespan.
The storage densities are already staggering. Next year the most advanced flash storage chips will have a capacity of roughly 64 billion bits per square centimeter, according to the industry's annual road map. By 2014, that is expected to increase to 170 billion bits per square inch.
Rice University scientists said that memristive storage devices could be five times as dense as the industry standard in 2014 and that the technology was more easily adaptable to three-dimensional packaging.
If HP manages it, it will become possible to build even vastly denser chips. HP boffins have worked out how to build 1,000-layer memristor-based chips although it is not commercially viable yet. µ
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