our pioneers, Scott Jordan, a nano-technologist, has been sending
pointers to breakthrough developments in parallel analog computing.
Scott has been blogging about HP’s Information and Quantum Systems Lab’s announcement of Memristor.
The HP Lab’s research team, led by HP Senior Fellow R. Stanley Williams,
“has developed a new switching technology by building a nanoscale memristor switch—at 50 nanometers by 50 nanometers, it is the world's smallest—that contained a layer of titanium dioxide (a chemical commonly used in both sunscreen and white paint) between two nanowires….Scientist Jianhua Yang found that by subtly manipulating the distribution of the oxygen atoms in this layer, he could control how the device functioned. Although other labs have demonstrated switching using similar materials, none have achieved this level of control over the switches.”
What are the implications of this breakthrough?
1. Faster, cheaper, nonvolatile RAM—low energy-consuming, inexpensive memory—I get excited thinking about the existing “thumb drives,” which are already incredibly popular in the third world, and low-cost computers that can be powered by solar energy.
2. Analog parallel computers—low-cost, low-energy-consuming computers that are much better suited to parallel processing the massive streams of real-time data feeds that are required to analyze, model, and diagnose many of our planet’s toughest problems—like global warming. Instead of (or in addition to) supercomputers in the cloud, memristive technologies could be deployed in distributed and embedded systems. These memristors can be turned into “integrated circuits that remember information, consume far less power than existing devices, and may someday learn from past behavior.”
“Memristors' capability is not limited to storing 1's and 0's. That would be so 21st century. No, memristors can store values in-between. They are analog devices, and they will facilitate parallel analog computers. Those are common enough: you have one between your ears.”
1) Jamie Beckett, June 2008, http://www.hpl.hp.com/news
3) Scott Jordan, CarpeNano.com