The “Memristor”could revolutionize electronics

The “Memristor”could revolutionize electronics

The transistor era is soon to be gone. The ‘MEMRISTOR’, its high-tech ultra-modern counterpart could soon revolutionized electronics. MEMRISTOR chips will soon be integrated in textiles, windows, even coffee cups and any imaginable items used in daily life.

With a faster speed, lower power consumption and a higher density of information per volume, MEMRISTORS offer many advantages over the old transistors. This new technology could allow creating computers that operate in a way similar to the synapses in our brains.

According to HP Labs Fellow R. Stanley Williams, “The MEMRISTOR holds its memory longer. It’s simpler. It’s easier to make — which means it’s cheaper — and it can be switched a lot faster, with less energy.”

For a long time, electrical engineers were using the three basic components to design circuits – inductors, capacitors, and resistors. In 1971, a physicist, Prof. Leon Chua, Department of the University of California Berkeley, conceptualized the existence of a fourth primary element in the electronic circuit, besides the three that were already in use at the time. Chua argued in his paper that, the MEMRISTOR has properties that cannot be duplicated by any amalgamation of the other three elements.

The introduction of the fourth component made the circuits exponentially more complex. Prof. Chua believed that in future, an extra component could be constructed to join the resistor, the capacitor and the inductor.

He named it “MEMRISTOR”, deriving from the words memory and resistor, as it carries properties of both memory element having memory history and resistor. The MEMRISTOR can replace flash memory and D-RAM.

However the implementation took almost four decades to conceptualize, as the first MEMRISTOR was built by Hewlett Packard in 2008.

Today, this innovation is believed by many researchers to be revolutionary in the field of computing.

This is believe to open up new innovations, engineers could, for example, develop a new kind of computer memory that would complement and eventually replace the generally used dynamic random access memory (D-RAM). Computers using conventional D-RAM lack the ability to retain information once they loss power. When power is restored to a D-RAM-based computer, a slow, energy-consuming “boot-up” process is necessary to recover data stored on a magnetic disk required to run the system.

MEMRISTOR-based computers wouldn’t require that process, using less power and possibly increasing system resiliency and reliability. Prof. Chua believes the MEMRISTOR could have applications for computing, cell phones, video games – anything that requires a lot of memory without a lot of battery-power drain.

This could be used to considerably improve facial recognition technology or to provide more complex biometric recognition systems that could more effectively restrict access to personal information.

These same pattern-matching capabilities could enable appliances that learn from experience and computers that can make decisions.

In computer chips, a transistor functions using a flow of electrons, whereas the MEMRISTOR couples the electrons with ions, or electrically charged atoms.

In a transistor, all information is lost once the flow of electrons is interrupted. But a MEMRISTOR can remember the amount of charge that was flowing through it, and much like a memory stick it will retain the data even when the power is turned off.

This can pave the way for computers that will instantly turn on and off like a light bulb and never lose data: the RAM, or memory, will no longer be erased when the machine is turned off, without the need to save anything to hard drives as with current technology.

Initially, the technology will be mostly used to create super-fast memory chips that contain more data and consume less energy.

This alone would make regular computers much more powerful, but down the line, the MEMRISTOR could also take on the processing.

Jennifer Rupp, professor of electrochemical materials at ETH Zurich, and working with IBM to build a MEMRISTOR-based machine, says, : “It (MEMRISTOR) could mean the end of the silicon era, giving us lower power consumption, the ability to compute more information, increased data storage and completely new logic patterns for our computers.”

MEMRISTORS don’t require a silicon layer and different materials can be used as a substrate. This could create a new class of microchips that could eventually be integrated in everyday items such as windows, clothes or even coffee cups.

After manufacturing the first ever MEMRISTOR in 2008, Hewlett Packard has been working on a new type of computer based on the technology planned to be launched by 2020. Christened as “The Machine”, it uses “electrons for processing, photons for communication, and ions for storage.”

“I think there is a race going on,” says Rupp. “There is a strong driving force, but at the same time it’s very important that there are players like HP, because they want to get to the market, show everyone that this is real.”

Right now the manufacturing cost of MEMRISTOR is high, however specialist believes the initiative to be worthy of its cost on R&D. “MEMRISTORS operate at a lower power consumption, with a faster speed, and with a higher volume density of information than anything we have based on silicon microchip transistors,” she said.

It is also said to have human brain-like characteristics that the technology could one day lead to computer systems that can remember and associate patterns in a way similar to how people do.

Rupp says, “Unlike a transistor, which is based on binary codes, a MEMRISTOR can have multi-levels. You could have several states, let’s say zero, one half, one quarter, one third, and so on, and that gives us a very powerful new perspective on how our computers may develop in the future,” she said.

Such a shift in computing methodology would allow to create “smart” computers that operate in a way reminiscent of the synapses in our brains.

Free from the limitations of the 0s and 1s, these more powerful computers would be able to learn and make decisions, ultimately getting us one step closer to creating human-like artificial intelligence.

Global market:
As MEMRISTOR enables to replace the increasing number of transistors used on circuits for amplifing chip performance which only results into the problem of heat generation which affects the devices. Also MEMRISTOR enables replace D-RAM. The computers using the D-RAM lack of ability to retain information once they shut down. MEMRISTORS can remember voltage and no need to reboot the computer. These efficient features resulting into increase in applications of MEMRISTORS, will navigate the global MEMRISTOR market. Increased awareness among the design engineers regarding the hi-tech progresses and advances in computers enables generate profitable openings for the MEMRISTORS market. Supervisory bodies are applying severe guidelines towards uphold the mandatory feature of products is major test for the market.

However, lack of skilled professionals is the major challenge and MEMRISTOR costlier than the conventional devices, which may hamper the global MEMRISTOR market.

Global Market can be segmented as – Based on RAM: 4 GB, 8 GB, 16 GB, 32 GB and 64 GB; by Product Type: Static RAM (S-RAM), Dynamic RAM (D-RAM) and EPROM.

The global MEMRISTORS market can be allocated based on applications into Nano Electronic Memories, Computer Logic, Neuromorphic Computer Architecture, Replacement of Transistors, Programmable logic, Signal Processing and so on. Furthermore, the market is also segmented on the type of MEMRISTOR such as Molecular and iconic thin flirmemristor, Magnetic and spin based MEMRISTOR. It is expected to reveal a noteworthy CAGR as well as annual growth rate over the estimate period.

Worldwide MEMRISTOR market is gaining acceptance in flow across the globe due to increased awareness among people. Prominent players in this market include: AMD Inc., Samsung Electronics co. ltd. and IBM Corporation.

North America is estimated to have a concentrated stake in global market due to increased awareness about the technology in the countries like US and Canada. They are followed by Asia-Pacific owing to the extreme transformation in Asian countries economy as well as IT industries in developing economies of India and China. This is to be followed by the European region with a significant upsurge witnessed in the global MEMRISTOR market.

MEMRISTOR Market: Key players – Some of the key players are: Toshiba Corporation, SanDisk Corporation, Intel Corporation, Fujitsu Ltd., Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd., Cypress Semiconductor Corporation, IBM, Hewlett Packard, Seagate Technology LLC., SK Hynix and Sony Corp.

Non-volatile memory applications: Non-volatile random access memory, or NVRAM, is pretty much the first to-market MEMRISTOR application we’ll be seeing. There are already 3nm MEMRISTORS in construction now. Crossbar latch memory developed by Hewlett Packard is reportedly currently about one-tenth the speed of DRAM.

The fab prototypes resistance is read with alternating current, so that the stored value remains unaffected. Industry analysts analyses that there is industry concurrence that these flash memory or solid state drives (SSD) competitors could start showing up in the consumer market within 2 years.

  • Low-power and remote sensing applications: As an addition of NVRAM capabilities, the corresponding circuits of the MEMRISTOR, together with memcapacitors and meminductors, which allow for the storage of charge, MEMRISTORS can possibly let for nano-scale low power memory and distributed state storage. These are currently all hypothetical in terms of time to market.
  • Crossbar Latches as Transistor Replacements or Augmentors: The high power consumption of transistors has been an obstacle to both miniaturization and microprocessor controller development.
  • Solid-state MEMRISTOR can be joined into devices called crossbar latches, which could replace transistors in future computers, taking up a much reduced space.
  • To do-away with the snags in this part, a huge amount a capital is required to be invested on R&D.
  • Analog computation and circuit Applications: Analog reckonings exemplified a whole capacity of exploration which, however were not as accessible or dependable as digital solutions.MEMRISTOR applications will now allow us to revisit a lot of the analog science that was abandoned in the mid 1960’s.
  • Circuits mimicking Neuromorphic and biological systems – Neuromorphic is a very large area of research, in part because a large part of the analog science has to do with advances in cognitive psychology, artificial intelligence modeling, machine learning and recent neurology advances. The ability to map people’s brain activities under MRI, CAT, and EEG scans is leading to a wealth of data about how brains functions. Simple electronic circuits based on an LC network and MEMRISTORS have been built, and used recently to model experiments on adaptive behavior of unicellular organisms. The experiments show that the electronic circuit, subjected to a train of periodic pulses, learns and anticipates the next pulse to come, similar to the behavior of the slime mold Physarumpolycephalum periodic timingas it is subjected to periodic changes of environment. The recent MEMRISTOR cat brain is also getting a lot of mention. These types of learning circuits find applications anywhere from pattern recognition to Neural Networks. No more neural pattern algorythm training on stock market data for the pop-sci investor: now, you can grow your own neural network! Just add two drops of MEMRISTOR. Not anywhere close to reality, FYI, even in the 30 years range, but very realistic in terms of helping advance the science itself, if not the consumer market for intelligent brains-in-a-jar.

The memristive applications in the areas Programmable Logic and Signal Processing, will remain relatively the same, because it will only be a change in the underlying physical architecture, allowing their capabilities to expand, however, to the point where their applications will most likely be unrecognizable as related.

“To find something new and yet so fundamental in the very mature field of electrical engineering is a big surprise,” said R. Stanley Williams, an HP Senior Fellow and director of the Information and Quantum Systems Lab (IQSL).