Tuesday 22 September 2015

How the 'Memristor' could Revolutionize Electronics


Memristor – Combination of Resistor/Capacitor/Inductor

A physicist in 1971 theorised the presence of a fourth fundamental element in the electronic circuit in addition to the three that were utilised at the time. Leon Chua the physicist believes for reasons of symmetry that an extra component would probably one day be created to combine the resistor, the capacitor as well as the inductor. He has called it memristor, a multiple of the words memory and resistor.

It took 37 years for the engineering skills to catch up with the idea, the first memristor being built by Hewlett Packard in 2008. Many researchers presently are of the belief that it could spark a revolt in computing. The memistor in plain terms could mean the end of electronics and the beginning of a new period known as `ionics’.

Transistors were invented in 1947 and were an important component of computer chips and functions utilising a flow of electrons while the memristor couples the electrons with ions or electrically charged atoms. In the case of transistor, once the flow of electrons tends to get interrupted by cutting the power, all information is lost. But a memristor can recall the amount of charge which was flowing through it and like a memory stick, tends to retain the date even when the power seems to be turned off.

Outflow the Boundaries of Binary Code

This could make the coast clear for computers which can immediately turn on and off like a light bulb without losing data. The RAM or memory will not get erased when the machine is turned off without the need of saving anything to hard drives as it is with the present technology.

However memristors have another important difference when compared to transistors, they outflow the boundaries of binary code. Originally, the technology would be utilised mostly to create super-fast memory chips which contains more data and will consume less energy and would make regular powerful, though down the line the memristor would also take on the processing.

Professor of electrochemical materials at ETH Zurich, Jennifer Rupp, working with IBM to build a memristor based machine pointed out to CNN’s Nick glass, that it tends to function just like a human brain. Unlike a transistor that is built on binary codes a memristor could have various levels. One could have various states such as zero, one half, one quarter, one third and so on which gives a powerful new perspective on how the computers tends to develop in the future.

Transistor Based on Silicon

This kind of change in computing methodology would help in creating smart computers which tend to operate in a meaningful way like the synapses in our brains.

Transistors are based on silicon which is a rigid substance where the properties are utilised in managing the flow of electrons and information. Gordon Moore, the co-founder of Intel, had formulated a famous law in 1975 which stated that the number of transistors in an electronic circuit tends to double around every two years. This has proved to be precise so far setting the pace for the gradual increase in computing power; however the trend could probably be ended.

There seems to be a physical limit to the number of transistors which can be packed on a chip and we are already on the road of reduction threshold of this technology. It is predicted that someday we would have to move away from silicon based computing.

The memristor technology seems to be a candidate for this crucial step and Rupp has commented saying that `it could mean the end of the silicon era, giving lower power consumption, that ability to compute more information, increased data storage as well as a completely new logic pattern for the computers.

Memristors Operates at Lower Power Consumption

Memristors does not need a silicon layer and various materials could be utilised as substrate thus creating a new class of microchips which would ultimately be assimilated in everyday products such as clothes, windows or coffee cups.

After manufacturing the first memristor, Hewlett Packard, had been working for years on a updated type of computer based on the technology and as per plans would be launched by 2020. Known as `The Machine, it utilises electrons for the purpose of processing, photons for communication and ions for storage.

Rupp informed that there is a race going on and there is a strong driving force while at the same time it is very important that there are players like HP since they intend to get to the market and show everyone that this is real. Presently manufacturing cost tends to be on the higher side though the benefits are worth it.

Rupp has informed CNN that Memristors tends to operate at lower power consumption with a faster speed and with a higher volume density of information than anything that is based on silicon microchip transistors. The existence of the memristor, like a particle in the realms of physics, was theorized much before one was actually built.

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