HP have said they are well on the way to developing storage technology capable of packing 20GB into a square centimeter. The new system relies on memristors or “memory resistors”, where an ultrathin film of titanium dioxide is blasted with an electrical current to move individual atoms and thus change the material’s resistance. HP’s team have created not only a 3D array of memristors – which work in a similar way to how the brain’s synapses function – but increased their switching speed to match that of traditional silicon transistors.
The advantage is primarily one of size and thus memory density. Whereas current transistor-based memory is manufactured on 30-40nm processes, HP have created memristors just 3nm and which can switch on and off in around a nanosecond. The 20GB-in-one-square-centimeter claim could, HP physicist Dr Stan Williams reckons, be delivered in less than three years time, but the technology has the potential to scale significantly beyond the limits of transistor storage.
“Not only do we think that in three years we can be better than the competitors, the memristor technology really has the capacity to continue scaling for a very long time, and that’s really a big deal” Dr Stan Williams, HP
Meanwhile the memristor technology also promises lower-power consumption, since once the atoms have been moved they require no electricity to maintain their state. HP reckon their system bests rival IBM’s phase-change memory technology, which they say is slower and requires more power.