New HP Circuit Could Change Technology Forever

Dennis Faas's picture

Hewlett Packard has uncovered a new form of electrical circuit which could allow them to make even smaller memory chips that consume less power than existing chips. The discovery could allow cell phones to run for weeks on a single charge, or give PCs the chance to start-up in an instant.

Though the chips would be smaller, they will be able to store information once the power is turned off, similar to the Flash system used in camera memory cards or USB sticks.

The advancement is tied to the way an electrical circuit works. Scientists have always known a circuit involves three basic components: a resistor, a conductor and a capacitor. In digital devices like cell phones or computer processors, these circuits pass through electronic signals which represent either a 1 or a 0; this binary code carries all the information needed for the device to work.

However, in 1971 a University of California professor predicted there could be a fourth component, which he dubbed a 'memristor'. This differs from the other three components because its resistance level isn't fixed; instead it changes over time depending on how much current has previously passed through it.

That meant that, in theory, somebody building a circuit could use the memristor as a form of memory. However, HP is the first firm to ever discover a working memristor, which they made with a layer of titanium dioxide sandwiched between two metal electrodes. (Source:

It comes at a particularly apt time for the digital industry as developers are struggling to make the commonly-used DRAM chip even smaller. HP says it is going to attempt to develop the memristor commercially as a form of computer memory, but it's too early to say if it will be worth trying to use for other purposes.

Eventually, the memristor could mean some even more amazing technology breakthroughs. Because it can 'remember' different levels of resistance, an individual memristor wouldn't be limited to passing on either a 1 or a 0 in the same way existing circuit parts do.

This means that it could operate more like a synapse, the chemical 'junctions' in the human body. In theory at least, this would be the key to artificial intelligence such as a computer having some form of vision or recognizing speech. (Source:

Rate this article: 
No votes yet