SEVILLE, Spain – The 'memristor' two-terminal non-volatile memory technology, in development at Hewlett Packard Co. since 2008, is on track to be in the market and taking share from flash memory within 18 months, according to Stan Williams, senior fellow at HP Labs.
"We have a lot of big plans for it and we're working with Hynix Semiconductor to launch a replacement for flash in the summer of 2013 and also to address the solid-state drive market," Williams told the audience of the International Electronics Forum, being held here.
A spokesperson for HP added that there is no definitive memristor product roadmap as yet, but confirmed that "HP has a goal to see memristor products by the end of 2013."
Williams said that the memristor metrics being achieved, in terms of energy to change a bit, read, write time, retention and endurance, were so compelling that flash replacement was effectively a done deal. "So in 2014/2015 we'll be going after DRAM and after that the SRAM market," Williams said indicating his confidence that the memristor would quickly become a universal memory.
Williams declined to discuss in detail the process technology, memory capacity or memory-effect material that Hewlett Packard and Hynix are working with. "We're running hundreds of wafers through a Hynix full-size fab. We're very happy with it." But Williams did disclose that the first commercial memory would be a multi-layer device.
When challenged over the cost of the technology, which would be the barrier to competing against the high-volume flash memory market, Williams said: "On a price per bit basis we could be an order of magnitude lower cost once you get the NRE [non-recurring expense] out of the way."
The memristor, named after the combination of memory and resistor, was originally a theoretical two-terminal device for which the electrical behavior was derived by Leon Chua in 1971. However, in 2008 researchers from HP published a paper in Nature that tied the hysterical I-V characteristics of two-terminal titanium oxide devices to the memristor prediction of Chua. "What we found is that moving a few atoms a fraction of a nanometer can change the resistance by three orders of magnitude," said Williams. "In fact many nanodevices have inherent memresistive behavior," he said.
HP has amassed some 500 patents around the memristor over the last three years. He also acknowledged that phase-change memory (PCM), Resistive RAM (RRAM) and other two-terminal memory devices are all memristor-type devices. Williams acknowledged that many other companies are working on metal-oxide resistive RAMs. He said that Samsung now has a bigger research team working on the technology than does HP.
Williams touted the cross-point nature of the memristor memory switch or resistive RAM device as a memory capacity advantage over flash memory. "Whatever the best in flash memory is, we'll be able to double that."
The memristor is a resistive component which conducts current both ways, a fundamental disadvantage vs. semiconductor devices. A crosspoint matrix of memristors is filled with backdoor paths. Some sort of diode function is required for row-column selection. No mention in these press releases of how that is done. Presumably they're just not disclosing their solution to this problem. Time will tell.
Yes, a claim of "Whatever the best in flash memory is, we'll be able to double that.", when he has no idea where FLASH will be in 2013, is falling into the old trap of comparing what you have in the labs, with the alternative in volume production.
A message for stockholders perhaps, not customers ?
I was surprised HP tried to tag this to the Leon Chua work in 1971 (based on charge and flux) - there is no technical basis for doing that, as HP's design has neither charge nor flux, but perhaps it was a ploy to protect against counter patent claims, and it talks-up share prices ?
Can anyone imagine the old HP placing bluff and bluster, ahead of facts ?
Atleast the statements sound really confident about the schedule. I do not think they have to release the complete roadmap to public now. If they can get it right I hope this will keep HP back on track.
If HP/Hynix can deliver on this promise it would truly be disruptive to the memory industry as we know it today. But given the sparse details about this technology, I take this announcement as more wishful thinking than a solid plan.
David Patterson, known for his pioneering research that led to RAID, clusters and more, is part of a team at UC Berkeley that recently made its RISC-V processor architecture an open source hardware offering. We talk with Patterson and one of his colleagues behind the effort about the opportunities they see, what new kinds of designs they hope to enable and what it means for today’s commercial processor giants such as Intel, ARM and Imagination Technologies.