HP Invent New Computer Technology That Needs No Power

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Hewlett-Packard today will announce a breakthrough in design of tiny new switches that it believes can replace transistors and change the way computer systems are designed.

The devices, known as memristors, or memory resistors, were first conceived in 1971 but were not put into effect until 2008, at the H-P lab in Palo Alto, California.

H-P’s findings about the memristor are detailed in a paper published this week in the journal Nature, by six researchers at the company’s Information and Quantum Systems Lab.

They are said to be simpler than today’s semiconducting transistors, and can store information, even in the absence of an electrical current. The Nature report says they can be used for both data processing and storage applications.

H-P scientists claim to have devised a method for storing and retrieving information from a vast three-dimensional array of memristors, with thousands of the tiny switches stacked on top of one another. This design is said to permit a new class of ultra-dense computing devices and analog computing systems that function more like biological brains.

“Our brains are made of memristors,” said Leon Chua, an electrical engineer at UCLA who first conceived the memristor, referring to the function of biological synapses. “We have the right stuff now to build real brains.”

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