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HP Backs Memristor Mass Production 116

Posted by Soulskill
from the can't-wait-for-the-next-round-of-patent-battles dept.
neo12 writes with news that Hewlett-Packard is teaming with Hynix Semiconductor, the world's second-largest producer of memory chips, to mass produce memristors for the first time. Quoting the BBC: "HP says the first memristors should be widely available in about three years. The devices started as a theoretical prediction in 1971 but HP's demonstration and publication of a real working device has put them on a possible roadmap to replace memory chips or even hard drives. ... Steve Furber, professor of computer engineering at the University of Manchester, explained that the potential benefits lie in the fact that memristors are 'much simpler in principle than transistors. Because they are formed as a film between two wires, they don't have to be implanted into the silicon surface — as do transistors, which form the storage locations in Flash — so they could be built in layers in 3D,' he told BBC News. 'Of course, the devil is in the detail, and I don't think the manufacturing challenges have been fully exposed yet.'"
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HP Backs Memristor Mass Production

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  • by OzPeter (195038) on Friday September 03, 2010 @09:16AM (#33463636)
    Up until recently the memristor was a theoretical fundamental circuit element (like resistor, capacitor and inductor - but the are easy to create in the real world). A few years ago they were actually created and there is a lot of interesting things you can do with the technology

    For more info see The mysterious memristor [ieee.org]

    Or just search Google memristor ieee [google.com]

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 03, 2010 @09:28AM (#33463746)

    The resistance of the memristor can be viewed as a function of the sum of the current that has passed through it (including the effects of polarity). A write would be performed by sending a larger current through the memristor in the right direction to increase or decrease the resistance; a read would be performed at lower currents that would not change the overall state of the memristor.

  • As I understand it, you apply high-frequency AC to do a read (the current gives you your value). The high-frequency AC ensures that any perturbations to the value cancel out.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 03, 2010 @09:28AM (#33463756)

    Ill let wiki do it for me
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Memristor [wikipedia.org]
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Memristor#Potential_applications [wikipedia.org]

    Think flash drives with the access times of DRAM. Think of instant hibernate computers. Instead of having to write out to HD the memory could just remember where it was at. Another application they talk about is crossbar switches. Currently each node in a cross bar has some sort of 'memory' associated to it. Such that the crossbar can 'learn' what are good routes and bad ones. This would allow them to make crossbar switches much smaller and use less power. Crossbar switches are used many times with NxM sized computers and in large communication networks.

    They have known about them for ages (since 1971). However, they have only recently figured out how to actually make them at micron sizes.

    Now given that we have not seen what they can do. What speeds we are talking about ect... If they can make them however (and at current gate sizes, and volume) the NAND flash drives we use today will probably quickly become a niche product.

    Typical application would be somewhere where you want to retain some sort of 'memory' of what is going on but do not want a processor involved. It has also been theorized you could use them for storage of n bits per resistor. So instead of 1 bit per location you could have 4 or even 16 bits. They are also nice in that supposedly you do not need to refresh them as often as we do now so they could also save power.

    Yes these things are cool :)

  • by plcurechax (247883) on Friday September 03, 2010 @10:03AM (#33464082) Homepage

    Aren't processors already layered[?]

    None of the in production processors are 3-D layered. Of course all physical devices are three dimensional themselves, but the height is basically moot until designers can use 3-D layering and routing (of the "wires" or interconnections.

    I believe research prototypes in universities and R&D labs have been created or are being worked on, so it is not science fiction.

  • by Abcd1234 (188840) on Friday September 03, 2010 @10:26AM (#33464354) Homepage

    They have known about them for ages (since 1971). However, they have only recently figured out how to actually make them at micron sizes.

    Well, no, not quite. The effect was postulated decades ago, but it was purely theoretical at the time (well, okay, it has been emulated using complicated circuitry). Furthermore, it's not that scientists "figured out how to actually make them at micron sizes"... it's that the effect only comes to the fore at micron sizes, which is why it hadn't been discovered sooner.

    No, the discovery is the ability to build a very simple implementation of this theorized circuit element, and its a mighty cool discovery indeed (someone linked to a IEEE article on memresistors... check it out, it's a great read, and does a very good job of explaining the theory and mechanism behind the operation of this particular implementation).

  • Re:Just big chips? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Amouth (879122) on Friday September 03, 2010 @10:54AM (#33464714)

    considering that the effect is only exploitable at nano meter scales - it might take a lot of work/time before anyone makes them into something you can buy off the shelf as a single component.

  • Steve Furber (Score:5, Informative)

    by Alioth (221270) <no@spam> on Friday September 03, 2010 @11:23AM (#33465048) Journal

    In case you're wondering who Steve Furber is, he is also one of the original designers of the ARM CPU.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 03, 2010 @11:26AM (#33465088)

    You do not need to use multi-period high frequency readout, just a single period (or read it twice with current in both directions) so that total charge (or integral of current over time) is zero. Once you now a value, you can "condition" it from time to time so that it does not degrade over many readouts. Other possibility is to condition it instantly during readout: You read the value in one direction and according to the value you either apply slightly higher opposite charge or you do not apply it at all as the readout already conditioned it in the right direction.

    These animals have steep saturation levels.

  • by smellsofbikes (890263) on Friday September 03, 2010 @11:59AM (#33465510) Journal

    Seriously, where will the work be done? Will HP set up the fab shop here, or in SK? Or set up multiple shops. I would love to see the DOD suggest to HP that they need to set up a shop here in the USA. We need to make certain that we have our electronics under control here. In addition, the DOD, NSA, etc needs to offer up contracts to American companies that produce equipment here. Why? Because we are increasingly seeing embedded virus, etc coming in from Asia.

    Last I heard, Hewlett Packard still has domestic fabs: Corvallis, Oregon, I believe, and I think they still have fab capability in Palo Alto. A lot of large semiconductor companies retain small cutting-edge fabs at their headquarters for doing small runs of experimental stuff.

    My company has two of its fabs in the US and one in the UK. We do all our packaging and testing in southeast Asia, but the company apparently made a decision about three years ago that we're not going to put fabs there, because we closed down one we'd built less than two years before.

    And, as I've said many times before, with the possible exception of processors, it's really difficult to sabotage chip design. Your profit margin is directly related to the surface area your chip layout occupies, so it is aggressively minimized in design, and there simply isn't room on the silicon to splice in new stuff. Added to that, chip companies that I've worked with usually do a planet run of many prototype silicon designs through one fab, often their domestic/in-house fab, do their initial testing on that, and only after that do they put it into production with a full-size mask on dedicated silicon in the production fab, so if you wanted to sneak stuff in you'd have to infiltrate both fabs, or you'd end up with silicon that's visually different -- and we spend a lot of time with high-power microscopes and microprobes poking around at new silicon, sometimes chipping bits out with a laser if we need to do a metal layer change, so it's not like someone wouldn't notice changes on smaller chips. And even if all of THAT didn't catch changes, test and product engineers spend months writing automated test programs that check each pin on each chip and characterize its leakage current, its current draw when functioning, its ESD resistance, all sorts of things, and added circuitry will change those values.

    If a company doesn't have a fab, and they just send all their completed masks (or, even worse, just the designs) off to one company, then I think it's possible, albeit difficult, for stuff to sneak into the silicon. But a company that has a fab, or runs their designs through multiple fabs, is pretty unlikely to get compromised silicon without noticing it. It would be significantly easier for a malevolent group to just design their own silicon from the ground up, and package it to look like the target chip and get it into distribution channels by selling it as authentic stuff, than to try to compromise a company's silicon.

  • by A nonymous Coward (7548) on Friday September 03, 2010 @12:07PM (#33465582)

    You do not RC. MRAM is magnetic, nothing like memresistors.

  • by molecular (311632) on Friday September 03, 2010 @12:08PM (#33465588)

    as I understand from watching "Memristor and Memristive Systems Symposium" on youtube, low voltage/current (read) wont change the memory. Only applying large voltage changes the state of the memristor. No need to refresh.

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