HP Reveals Memristor, The Fourth Passive Circuit Element

The memristor will enable a new era of nanoscale electronics, scientists say.
As Chua predicted, Williams is already thinking about creating new types of devices with HP's crossbar architecture beyond a simple memory device.

"If we push current through it hard and fast, it acts like a digital device, but if we run current through it gently and slowly it acts as an analog device," said Williams. "We are already designing new types of circuits in both the digital and analog domains using our crossbar architecture. In the analog domain, we want to build memristor-based devices that operate in a manner similar to how the synapse works in the brain -- neuron-like analog computational elements that could perform control functions where decisions must be made involving comparisons as to whether something is larger or smaller than something else. We are not building a neural network yet, but we think that using the memristor in its analog mode with our crossbar is a pretty good representation of a neural net."

Later in 2008, HP promises to begin releasing details of how its memristor material works with its already perfected nanoscale crossbar switch architecture in these various types of circuits.

"The memristor is not just a replacement technology for existing memory devices, but will be used to make a whole range of new types of devices that no one has ever thought of before," said Williams.