updated 07:55 pm EDT, Wed April 7, 2010
Switches offer smaller form than transistors
HP scientists have made advancements in switch technology that is viewed by some as a logical replacement for current transistors, according to a New York Times report. The components, referred to as memory resistors or "memristors," are said to be simpler than existing transistors, while also capable of storing information without requiring a constant electrical current.
The company has gradually increased memristor switching speed to levels comparable to traditional silicon transistors, without running into problems with reliability, according to HP physicist Stan Williams. Scientists believe the components could be used to store and access information from three-dimensional arrays composed of thousands of switches stacked in ultra-dense configurations, enabling scaling to continue past the limits of current two-dimensional arrangements.
"Not only do we think that in three years we can be better than the competitors, the memristor technology really has the capacity to continue scaling for a very long time, and that's really a big deal," said Williams.
While many theoretical or experimental technologies fail to offer an attractive alternative to existing options, typically due to cost or performance considerations, many believe current semiconductors are quickly nearing fundamental barriers that may prevent further miniaturization. While advanced semiconductors are built around features ranging from 30 to 40 nanometers, certain memristor components are already working at 3 nanometers.
HP scientists claim memristors are set to achieve capacities of 20 gigabytes per square centimeter sometime in the next three years. "We believe that that is at least a factor of two better storage than flash memory will be able to have in that time frame," said Williams.
The company has yet to disclose a specific time-frame for the technology to arrive on the market. Additional details of the group's progress have been detailed in the current issue of the journal Nature.