by Anton Shilov
09/27/2012 | 12:52 PM
Although Hewlett-Packard and SK Hynix have fully developed memristor-based resistive random access memory (ReRAM) technology, they decided to postpone manufacturing of commercial ReRAM products to late 2013. Earlier the companies planned to commercialize memristor technology sometimes next summer, but business reasons have caused the delay.
"In terms of commercialization, we will have something technologically viable by the end of next year. Our partner, Hynix, is a major producer of flash memory, and memristors will cannibalize its existing business by replacing some flash memory with a different technology. So the way we time the introduction of memristors turns out to be important," said Stan Williams, Hewlett-Packard senior fellow and director of the company's cognitive systems laboratory, during a conversation at the Kavli Foundation.
The memristor, short for “memory resistor,” requires less energy to operate, can retain information even when power is off, and is faster than present solid-state storage technologies. It works by manipulating only a handful of atoms to produce a dramatic change in electrical resistance and therefore needs to be made using very advanced nano-scale process technologies. It was postulated to be the fourth basic circuit element by professor Leon Chua of UC Berkeley in 1971 and first intentionally reduced to practice by researchers in HP Labs, the company’s central research arm, in 2006. The technology can also perform logic, enabling computation to one day be performed in chips where data is stored, rather than on a specialized central processing unit.
The ReRAM is a product that holds potential to replace the flash memory currently used in smartphones, tablets, MP3 players and to serve as a universal storage medium - that is, memory that can behave as flash, DRAM or even a hard drive.
"One important aspect of memristors is that they are simple structures made from materials and processes already used in semiconductor foundries. This is critical, because we would face tremendous resistance if we asked the industry to change technologies. But they don't have to change. If you know what you're doing - and there's a lot of intellectual property involved - literally any foundry could make memristors tomorrow," added Mr. Williams.
Earlier this year an HP visionary predicted that smartphones and tablets would start utilizing ReRAM-based storage sometimes in 2014 - 2015. However, with current plans to start commercial manufacturing of ReRAM in late 2013 it looks like the first mass products featuring the technology are only going to emerge in 2015 - 2016.