(ZDNet) - Scientists at HP and the University of California, Santa Barbara have discovered the physical and chemical properties of the memristor, a likely component of future memory and computational circuitry. Using highly-focused X-rays, the researchers gained unprecedented understanding of adevice they already knew how to make and use, but without a clear idea of the underlying mechanism. HP hopes memristor-based memory chips will run at least10 times faster than equivalent flash memory chips, while using a tenth of the power.
In the research,published on Monday in the journalNanotechnology, the team said that it had new understanding of how current flow caused heating that changed the molecular structure of the device. It also said it had discovered memristors to be very close in functioning to the neurons that pass information around the human brain.
Memristorsare simple devices that consist of no more than a thin titanium dioxide film held between two metal electrodes, and they act within circuitry as resistors. However, memristors have the added quality of remembering the resistance they had when current last flowed through them, hence the portmanteau name. Their resistance increases or decreases depending on the direction of the current.