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Memristor Scientific Method

Memristor Scientific Method

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Published by Blaise_Mouttet
Debunking the memristor mythology
Debunking the memristor mythology

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Published by: Blaise_Mouttet on Jan 28, 2012
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01/15/2013

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The memristor andthe scientific method
Blaise Mouttet
 Abstract 
— In 1971 a “missing memristor” wasproposed by a circuit theorist named Leon Chua as a4
th
fundamental passive circuit element defined by anon-linear relationship between electric charge andmagnetic flux linkage. In 2008 a research group fromHewlett-Packard led by Stan Williams claimed creditfor finding this “missing memristor” based on theobservation of a zero-crossing hysteresis effect. Irecently proved that the zero-crossing hysteresiseffect can be produced by dynamic systems otherthan the memristor or more generalized memristivesystems. In light of this development I addressseveral public comments made by Stan Williamsregarding the history of the memristor.Keywords- scientific method, memristor, RRAM,ReRAM
I.
 
I
NTRODUCTION
 Advancements in science are not made based onwhether large corporations or famous scientistsendorse a particular theory or idea. Scienceprogresses solely based upon the formulation,testing, and modification of hypothesis. That is thescientific method.Corporations have a profit motive and scientists,while typically portrayed as seekers of objectivetruth, can have their judgments clouded by a desireto enhance their reputations.The “memristor” was originally proposed in 1971by Leon Chua as a missing fourth fundamentalcircuit element linking magnetic flux and electriccharge [1]. In 2008 a group of scientists from HP ledby Stan Williams claimed to have discovered thismissing memristor [2]. It is my position that HP’s“memristor” claim lacks any scientific merit.My position is not that the HP researchers havepresented an incorrect model of a memristor or evenan incorrect model of resistance memory. If thiswere the case it would not be so bad because anincorrect model could at least be proven incorrectand possibly corrected to produce a better model.My position is that the HP researchers have avoidedpresenting any scientifically testable model at all byhiding behind the reputation of Leon Chua and themythology of the memristor. They have thusattempted to bypass the principle of the scientificmethod.If the HP researchers had developed a realisticmodel for resistive memory (whether it is called“memristor” or by some other name) it could bevetted by other researchers, compared toexperimental data, and determined to be true orfalse. If necessary the model could be modified orcorrected and an improved version of the modelcould be produced.This is not what has happened.Instead the HP researchers presented thediscovery of the “missing memristor” predicted byLeon Chua in 1971. The HP researchers wrote downequations in the form suggested by Leon Chua andproduced several zero-crossing hysteresis curvesbased on their memristor equations. The HPresearchers pointed out that a similar zero-crossinghysteresis curve is produced by resistance switchingin thin films of TiO
2
and declared that based on thissimilarity they had discovered the fourthfundamental passive circuit element.The problem is that the memristor equationspresented by the HP researchers have very little todo with the actual physics of TiO
2
thin films.Phenomena such as non-linear ion drift, filamentformation, redox reactions, electron tunneling, phasechange, and numerous other effects associated withresistance switching physics of thin films were allcompletely ignored. Instead “window functions”
 
were introduced to treat any discrepancy betweenHP’s memristor equations and experimental data.Now, almost 4 years later, there is still no evidentimprovement of any of the so-called “memristor”models of the HP researchers which can be tested bythe scientific method. Instead Stan Williams (incollaboration with Leon Chua) have convinced otherresearchers to change the original definition of memristor so as to cover all known 2-terminalresistance memory devices exhibiting a pinchedhysteresis curve. I recently proved that, even giventhe new definition of a memristor, the assertions of Leon Chua and Stan Williams are false [3].This article addresses several public commentsmade by Stan Williams of Hewlett-Packardregarding the history of the memristor available athttp://regmedia.co.uk/2011/12/22/hp_memristor_history.pdf  II.
 
RESPONSES TO THE COMMENTS OF STANWILLIAMS OF HEWLETT
-
PACKARD
 Page 1, paragraphs 1 and 2:Stan Williams begins by giving a biography of Leon Chua and listing his accomplishments. It isacknowledged that Leon Chua is a famous circuittheorist with many achievements. However, thisdoes not provide evidence that Chua’s idea of amemristor is correct.Throughout human history famous scientists havehad theories which, while being accepted in theirday, later turned out to be wrong or misguided. Oneof the world’s first famous scientists was the ancientGreek philosopher Aristotle who had several ideasabout the physical world including the idea that theworld could be divided into the four elements of earth, air, fire, and water. The ideas of Aristotleshaped the world for almost 1800 years but wereunfortunately poorly formulated and did not followthe scientific method. It was not until therenaissance and the coming of Galileo and Newtonthat many of Aristotle’s ideas were shown to beincorrect based on the modern application of thescientific method.In a more recent example in 1989 the chemistsMartin Fleischmann and B.Stanley Pons went to thepress with an amazing discovery of a new type of fusion [4]. Unfortunately these chemists did notproperly apply the scientific method to their claimsprior to making their pronouncements to the press.Their claims were then very publically debunked.This has resulted in reluctance to fund research inthis area of energy science which may be a bad thingconsidering that there might be some commercialuse for a new form of fusion. If there had been abetter adherence to the scientific method this mayhave been prevented.Page 1, paragraph 3:Stan Williams describes memristive systems as ageneralization of the memristor which was describedin a 1976 publication by Chua and Kang [5].Williams comments that
“..it is relatively ‘easy to show’ that if both R and  f are independent of the current i, the two equationsreduce to the original definition of a memristor.”
This statement appears to demonstrate a verypoor understanding of memristive (and dynamic)systems. In the case described by Williams where Rand f are independent of the current i the memristivesystem reduces to (1).
(
) =
(
)
(
)

(
)

=
(
)
 
(1)
 
Since the dynamic equation is only a function of the state
w
this system is a volatile, memorylesssystem representative of a time-dependent resistor.This case cannot be a memristor because it has nomemory. A correct dynamic system model for amemristor requires a linear relationship between therate of change of the state and the current as in (2).
(
) =
(
)
(
)

(
)

=
(
)
 
(2)
 
I pointed this out at the 2010 IEEE Symposiumon Circuits and Systems [6] and Chua noted this inEq. 29a and 29b of [7]. Thus this statement of Williams seems to indicate a misunderstanding of memristive systems.
 
Page 2, paragraph 1:Stan Williams summarizes the 1976 paper of Chua and Kang by stating
“The key result was that any electronic circuit element that displayed a pinched hysteresis loop inits current-voltage characteristic could be described mathematically by the two memristive systemsequations.”
I have recently provided several examples of dynamic systems falling outside of the definition of memristive systems that also produce zero-crossinghysteresis curves [3]. My paper establishes that it ispossible that neither the memristor nor memristivesystems have anything to do with the zero-crossinghysteresis curves found in the Lissajous curves of RRAM devices.Page 2, paragraph 2:Stan Williams explains why the term memristorhas been used in place of the more genericmemristive systems.
“Chua has recommended that the nomenclaturebe simplified by referring to both as memristors,since in fact the generalization was a ‘trivialextension’”
This comment directly contradicts the followingstatement in the first paragraph of Chua’s 1976paper [5] which introduced memristive systems.
“..there remains an even broader class of  physical devices and systems whose characteristicsresemble those of a memristor and yet cannot berealistically modeled by this element,..”
It is difficult to see how something thatpreviously “cannot be realistically modeled” is all of a sudden “a trivial extension.”Page 2, paragraph 4:Stan Williams argues that
“Examples of memristors include bipolar and unipolar resistive switches, often called RRAM or  ReRAM; ‘atomic switches’; spin-torque transfer  RAM devices, phase change memory devices, and several other systems based on a wide variety of materials and mechanisms..”
There is no definitive evidence that either thememristor or memristive systems provide a correctframework to model any of these materials. Pershinand Di Ventra reviewed a variety of models fordifferent memory types formulated in terms of memristive systems [8]. However, just as in the caseof HP’s 2008 memristor article [2], there has not yetbeen adequate experimental evidence to determinewhether these models are correct or not.Even if memristive systems models are found tobe useful in RRAM modeling it is faulty logic to callall these devices memristors. The logic used byChua and Williams is that since a memristorgenerates a zero-crossing hysteresis curve andmemristive systems generate zero-crossinghysteresis curves it is okay to call all memristivesystems a memristor. Under this type of sloppy logicsince a human is a mammal and dogs, whales, andelephants are all mammals then dogs, whales, andelephants should all be considered humans.In any case I proved that non-memristive systemscan produce zero-crossing hysteresis [3] and theBiolek group proved that it is impossible for type IIzero-crossing hysteresis curves (usually associatedwith unipolar memory) to represent memristors [9].Thus calling devices that exhibit zero-crossinghysteresis “memristors” is scientifically meaninglesswithout stronger experimental evidence supportedby a memristor model.Page 2, paragraph 5:Stan Williams addresses the question of whetherthe memristor should or should not be considered afourth fundamental circuit element by commenting
“We will see how the textbooks choose to defineit.”
If the memristor is a genuine scientific conceptthis should not be left up to the popular opinion of textbook writers. However, even Pershin and DiVentra, who have been two of the most activeresearchers in memristive theory besides Chuacomment that they
“..prefer to subscribe to thenotion that there are only three fundamental circuit elements-resistors, capacitors and inductors, with or without memory.”
(Section II.H of [8])Williams states that:

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