Friday, December 12, 2008

Memristors and our analog brains.

Hello Everyone,

Perhaps you read the news earlier this year; that a new fundamental electrical component had been discovered - the memristor. The memristor had originally
been hypothesized back in 1971, with the observation that a relationship between electrical charge and magnetic flux was "missing" from the known relationships represented by resistance (R), inductance (L), and capacitance (C). I hadn't quite understood what this discovery was about until I read an article in the December 2008 issue of IEEE Spectrum magazine. The article was authored by R. Stanley Williams, the leader of the memristor team at HP Labs.

If you are interested in understanding the memristor, as I was, you can go to IEEE Spectrum Online to read
How We Found the Missing Memristor. There is even a video tutorial to go with it: The 6-Minute Memristor.

Coming from a perspective that "The World is Analog", I was fascinated to learn that the memristor discovery emerged from a project where the original objective was to create a nanoscale array of crossbar switches - basically the simplest form of on/off, binary digital elements. In the process though, a truly new type of component was discovered that exhibits non-volatile analog memory. The HP Labs memristor changes its resistance depending on the magnitude and duration of the voltage applied to it, and continues to maintain that state after the voltage is removed. Do read the article to find out about the fascinating physical phenomena on which this is based. Most significant, I think, is that the nonlinear analog behavior of the memristor apparently mimics the behavior of the synapses in our brains.

The world truly is analog!


No comments: