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Will the memristor make the jump to ‘real world’ applications?

One of the stock phrases which those commentating on the electronics industry often fall back on is that something is ‘tomorrow’s technology – and always will be’. While the words may differ, the sentiment remains the same.

EUV lithography is one such technology. Having failed to meet expectations for more than a decade, EUV has recently shrugged off its reputation somewhat and appears to be making a late bid for technology stardom.

Memristors are another example. While their existence was postulated in 1971 by Professor Leon Chua, it took until 2008 before a team at HP Labs, led by Stan Williams, demonstrated memristor behaviour in a ‘real’ device.

After the HP Labs announcement, there was a general hullaballo surrounding memristor potential. Examples included helping to replicate the function of the brain and ‘rebooting’ the performance of FPGAs. Since then? Well, not a lot.

But a team from Southampton University says it has pushed memristor performance ‘to new levels’. Professor Themis Prodromakis said: “This is a really exciting discovery, with potentially enormous implications for modern electronics. Memristors are a key enabling technology for next-generation chips, which need to be highly reconfigurable, yet affordable, scalable and energy-efficient.

“At the same time this technology is ideal for developing novel hardware that can learn and adapt autonomously, much like the human brain.”

Developing memristors with 128 discernible memory states is one thing – and congratulations to Prof Prodomakis and his team for their work – getting such devices into meaningful products is another. The operative word used by Prof Prodomakis is 'potentially'.

Will the memristor make that jump in the near future or will it be filed under ‘tomorrow’s technology…’?

Graham Pitcher

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Great article. With self driving cars needing rapid low power computational devices, the need for memristors is without doubt. Programming these devices will be interesting.

Posted by: John Silvester, 02/04/2018

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