SAGAR Roll no -10BM60075 MBA 1st Year, 2010-2012 Batch, Vinod Gupta School of Management, IIT Kharagpur

Abstract: A memristor ("memory resistor") is passive two-terminal circuit element in which the resistance is a function of the time history of the current and voltage through the device. Memristor theory was formulated and named by Prof. Leon Chua in a 1971 paper- Memristor-The Missing Circuit Element in The 1971.Memristance (Memory + Resistance) is a property of an ElectricalComponent that describes the Memristance variation in Resistance of a component with theflow of charge. Any two terminal electrical components that exhibit Memristance is known as a Memristor. No combination of R, L, and C circuit could , duplicate the memristance. So the memristor qualifies as a fundamental circuit element.Possible applications of a Memristor include Non-volatile Random AccessMemory (NVRAM), a device that can andom retain memory information even afterbeing switched off, unlike conventional DRAM which erases itself when it is switched off. Another interesting application is analog computation where a memristor will be able to deal with analog values of data and not just binary 1s and 0s. In this paper the implications per of memristor for future applications is discussed.

Symbol of Memristor:

Equation of memristor:

The memristor is a two-terminal variable resistor, with its resistance depending upon the terminal amount of charge, q that has been passed between its two terminals:

V=I.M (q)
The differential equation being: M

= dΦm / dQ

Where, Q is defined by I = dQ/dt, and Φm is defined by V = dΦm/dt.

An image of memristors, developed at HP labs, captured by an Atomic Force Microscope , Microscope:

HISTORY of Memristor:

"Now all the EE textbooks need to be changed" –IEEE Kirchoff Award winner Leon Chua on the discovery of the memresistor. he

Introduction: The very idea of a fourth fundamental circuit element first came into the mind of Prof. Leon Chua and he published a paper named “Memristor-The Missing Circuit Element” in 1971. He generalized the memristor to memristive systems in a 1976 paper. The Memristor has a very unique property that it can remember the amount of current that has passed through it in the past, and hence was tagged by Chua with the name "memristor". The memristor will be a very important thing in the coming future. Due to its unique property, it can be used as NVRAMNon Volatile Random Access Memory, which will have a non volatile memory as compared to the conventional DRAM which we are using now a day. As per name, the memristor can "remember" how much current has passed through it previously, and by changing the amount of current that passes through it, a memristor can become a one-element circuit component with unique properties. It can save its electronic state even when the current is turned off, thereby making it a great candidate to replace today's flash memory. But the Memristor was discovered in laboratory formally on April 30, 2008 by a team at HP labs under the direction of R. Stanley Williams. They developed a switching memristor based on thin films of Dioxide of Titanium (TiO2). Architectures for memory chips using memristors have been created by HP and they believes that it is possible that devices incorporating the element could come to market within the next few years. They have also designed a new architecture within which multiple layers of memristor memory can be stacked on top of each other in a single chip and such chips could be used to create handheld devices that offer ten times greater embedded memory than exists today or to power supercomputers that will work much faster than today’s supercomputers. Eventually, memristor based processors would replace the silicon in the smart display screens found in e-readers and could one day even become the successors to silicon on a larger scale. Memristors will be far cheaper and faster than flash memory, and will allow far greater memory densities.They can also replace RAM chips in the future, so that even after turning off one’s computer, it will remember exactly what it was doing when it is turned back on, and will return to work instantly. This lowering of cost and consolidating of components may lead to affordable, solid-state computers that fit in one’s pocket and run many times faster than today's PCs. The Idea of Memristor is very important for the future as it can be used for a variety of applications: i) ii) iii) Memristors can retain memory states, and data, in power-off modes. Non-volatile random access memory, or NVRAM, will be the first key memristor application we’ll be seeing. The boot-up process will not be required, as a memristor-based computer can retain its information even after losing power, and hence, power and time will be saved. By coupling memristors with capacitors and inductors, which allow for the storage of charge, memristors can be used for low power (of the order of nano scale) memory, as a further extension of NVRAM capabilities.


Mr. Chua believed that the memristor could have applications for anything that requires a lot of memory without a lot of battery-power drain like computing, cell phones, video games.

v) vi)

Devices called crossbar latches, which could replace transistors in future computers, can be made by solid-state memristors. The crossbar latches take up a much smaller area. As “cloud computing” becomes more prevalent, this low power functionality of memristor could play a very significant role. An IT infrastructure of thousands of servers and storage systems is required for Cloud computing.


Memristor technology can one day enable computer systems to remember and associate patterns in a way a human brain recognizes patterns. This will substantially improve today’s facial recognition technology, and enable security and privacy features that recognize a complex set of biometric features of an authorized person to access personal information.

viii) ix)

Memristors can also perform logic computation. The memristor can hold and process data simultaneously such that that data will “no longer need to be moved”, significant performance gains can be made in computational processing.


The memristor theory is applicable to explain behavior of biological neurons also, and some research groups have developed circuit designs, exploiting memristors as component of neuromorphic electronics.


As a memristor will be able to deal with analog values of data and not just binary, it can be used in the field of analog computing.

Currently, HP’s version of the Titanium Dioxide memristor is the most general type of memristor, but there are other types of memristors as well, as there is a wide variety of systems which exhibit this memristic behaviour and more and more are being discovered as more companies began to do their research on memristors:

1. Molecular and Ionic Thin Film Memristive Systems: These types of memristors rely on different material properties of thin film atomic lattices that exhibit hysteresis under the application of charge. a. Titanium dioxide memristors: This memristor first developed by HP Labs, is based on a two thin layers of titanium dioxide films like “sandwich”, which is composed of symmetrical lattices of titanium and oxygen atoms. As the atoms move in the film, the electrons in the material also move as their movements are tied and this allows a change of state in the atomic structure of the memristor. This memristor changes state by altering oxygen vacancies between the two seperate layers.

b. Polymeric (ionic) memristors: In this type of memristor, one component of the material structure, the cationic or anionic, is free to move throughout the structure as a charge carrier. c. Manganite memristive systems: A substitute of this bilayer oxide films based on manganite, as opposed to titanium dioxide, was exhibited as having this memristance properties at the University of Houston in 2001. d. Resonant-tunneling diode memristors: Certain types of diodes with special doping designs of the spacer layers between the source and drain regions have been known to exhibit memristive properties.

2. Spin Based and Magnetic memristive systems: There are also some Spin-based memristive systems, which rely on the special property of degree of freedom in the spin of electron. In these types of memristive system, the alteration of electron spin polarization takes place through the movement of a magnetic “domain” wall, which separates the polarities, allowing for memristive behaviour to occur. a. Spintronic Memristors: This type of magnetic memristor is currently under development by several labs, notably Seagate, and is called a spintronic memristor. In the same way as the titanium dioxide memristor changes state by altering oxygen vacancies between two seperate layers, this type of memristor uses magnetization to change memristors resistance state, by altering the spinning direction of electrons in two different sections of the device. b. Spin Torque Transfer (STT) MRAM: The simplest structure for a MRAM bit, configuration known as a spin valve, allows for state change. A spin torque, induced by a current flowing through the magnetic junction controls the resistance in a memristive effective spin-torque transfer, and it depends on the difference in spin orientation between the two sides of the junction. These spin torque are sometimes referred to as “second-order memristive systems as constructions can exhibit both ionic and magnetic properties, depending on the material used to construct the MRAM bits.

3. 3-terminal memristors: The Electroplating technology was used by Bernard Widrow at Stanford, to demonstrate a type of three terminal memristor. The time integral of current controlled the conductance of the memristor. This research was part of a larger research project into the mathematics of early neural network modelling. The Adaptive Linear Element of Widrow (and his then-student Ted Hoff, of Intel fame) is a single layer neural network based on the McCulloch-Pitts neuron, and shows that even in the early days, the modelling of memristive systems was closely related to neuronal learning algorithms.

Current Status of the Technology: HP has developed the memristor in their lab on April 30, 2008 and this technology from HP Labs will enable quicker, more energy-efficient computing, but commercial production of memristor is yet to start and a lot of research work is being done on how to commercialise the production of memristor. HP has entered into Collaboration with South Korea’s Hynix Semiconductors Inc. (Formerly Hyundai Electronics), manufacturers of SRAM, DRAM, FLASH and other semiconductor devices, to bring the memristor to market as next-generation memory device.

On The Horizon: In the short to medium term, memristors (as NVRAM) will come to market in 2013/2014 in direct competition with flash memory technology. Reduced size, increased speed (10 fold improvement), increased capacity (may be 20GB per square centimetre) and reduced energy requirements will be key differentiators. Limitations of flash erase/write cycles (due to memory wear) are also likely to be improved by approximately ten fold. Anything that can be calculated on silicon can also be done with memristors and that too in a much smaller space and less time. Transferring the technology to fabrication facilities could go a long way toward filling the knowledge gap. "Once you have the fabrication technology, it's a completely new game," says Dmitri Strukov, professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of California, Santa Barbara, who is developing memristors in his lab. Since, Memristors are capable of doing the activities that is analogous to what happens in the synapses of the human brain, they have been the subject of much interest of late. This can also help efforts for developing logic circuits based on memristor. So far, however, all the experimental demonstrations of memristors have been accomplished by forcing them to behave more like transistors. Instead of switching between hundreds of states, these memristors have been made to switch between two states with a high and low resistance--a digital zero and one. Hybrid chips are likely to be the next evolution (memristor memory combined with traditional silicon processors). These would facilitate applications such as high-end image processing, which require more memory and are intensive. Challenges lie ahead in the manufacturing and production processes, fully understanding and improving the properties of the (titanium dioxide) materials. Development of circuit design tools is also necessary to facilitate “industrialisation” of memristor technology. If NVRAM application of memristor technology becomes successful in 3 years’ time, it could be seen as an acceleration of commercial investment.

The Future: The potential for memristors is only beginning to be understood. It is a disruptive technology and one of very significant promise. The capabilities and limitations of the technology are evolving day by day. This is very exciting as the ultimate use of memristors is unknown (and will certainly take a decade to fully develop). It could play a significant role in advancing exascale computing - ‘computer on a chip’ capabilities, as well as driving developments in neural and analog computing. Now, University of Michigan computer engineer Wei Lu and his colleagues are exploring memristors as the foundation for the memory and learning functions in a future electronic brain modeled on that of a cat. In Lu's work, the memristors act as synapses. The researchers published their results in the scientific journal Nano Letters. From the University of Michigan:


are building a computer in the same way that nature builds a brain," said Lu, an assistant

professor in the University of Michigan Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. "The idea is to use a completely different paradigm compared to conventional computers. The cat brain sets a realistic goal because it is much simpler than a human brain but still extremely difficult to replicate in complexity and efficiency.. .


So far, Lu has connected two electronic circuits with one memristor. He has demonstrated that this system is capable of a memory and learning process called "spike timing dependent plasticity." This type of plasticity refers to the ability of connections between neurons to become stronger based on when they are stimulated in relation to each other. Spike timing dependent plasticity is thought to be the basis for memory and learning in mammalian brains. "We show that we can use voltage timing to gradually increase or decrease the electrical conductance in this memristor-based system. In our brains, similar changes in synapse conductance essentially give rise to long term memory," Lu said. The next step is to build a larger system, Lu said. His goal is achieving the sophistication of a supercomputer in a machine which is of the size of a two-litre beverage container. That could be several years away, but possibly it will be built in future, and it will be a big revolution in the field of Artificial Intelligence.

Economic Potential: Memristors can be used very efficiently to generate a large amount of revenue by the company which will commercialize it on a very large scale. Due to the unique properties of memristor and its cheap price, as it is made of Tungsten Dioxide, which is quite cheaper. The first company which will bring the memristor in the market will be able to make a huge fortune out of it. Also, if the research by Wei Lu becomes a success, it will revolutionize the field of Artificial Intelligence, and one day we can have a robot which will be able to think by itself. Currently, HP is planning to commercialize the first

memristor application in the form of NVRAM’s (Non Volatile Random Access Memory) in collaboration with Korea’s Hynix Semiconductors Inc. (Formerly Hyundai Electronics), manufacturers of SRAM, DRAM, FLASH and other semiconductor devices, and it is being said that NVRAM’s will come to market by 2013/2014. The memristor, if it is able to perform as expected, will bring a revolution in the world of computing, as it will be able to read analog data, also NVRAM’s enabled computers will not require booting, thus saving a huge amount of time, which people spend now waiting for their computers to boot. The introduction of memristors as NVRAM’s in the market will open a new era in the field of computing and open a door towards much more uses of the memristor in the future.

Key Players:

HP, the American IT giant, is currently the key player in this area, as they have first created the memristor. HP is now one of the world’s largest IT companies and operates in nearly every country. Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard co-founded the company in a one-car garage in Palo Alto in 1939. HP specializations are - developing and manufacturing computers, data storage, printing and networking hardware, designing software and delivering services Major product lines of HP include personal computing devices (desktops/laptops), enterprise servers, related storage devices, as well as a diversified range of printers and other imaging products. It had revenues in excess of $115 billion during 2009, out of which, $40 billions came from services. In 2007, HP's revenue was $104 billion, making it the first IT company in history to report revenues exceeding $100 billion. Since, HP is a very large company in terms of size, revenue, economic strength, they will be able to commercialise the memristor in the coming years. They have entered into collaboration with Hynix Semiconductors, which is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of computer memory chips.

Highlights of the deal:  The two companies will jointly develop new materials and process integration technology to transfer the memristor technology from research to commercial development in the form of Resistive Random Access Memory (ReRAM). Hynix will implement the memristor technology in its research and development department of the semiconductor fabrication plant.  ReRAM is non-volatile memory with low power consumption that holds the potential to replace Flash memory currently used in mobile phones and MP3 players. It also has the potential to serve as a universal storage medium – that is, memory that can behave as Flash, DRAM or even a hard drive. “The memristor has storage capacity abilities many times greater than what competing technologies offer. By adopting HP’s memristor technology we can deliver new, energy-efficient products to our customers more quickly.”- Dr. S.W. Park, executive vice president and chief technology officer, Hynix.

CHALLENGES: Memristics, i.e. the study of memristive systems, has still to cope up with two main conceptual and technical challenges. First is the problem of self-referentiality of second-order concepts defining memristive systems. This self-referentiality problem is more of a kind of surface problem. The second problem is the problem of the localization of conceptual pattern. This problem does not seem to exist in the literature of computing systems and realization of computational devices. The other challenges being: 1. The characteristics of memristors are so unique that we will have to redesign the whole computing and storage paradigm, we are having such large and enough amounts of SRAM like storage on the microprocessor now a days and as such DRAM is not required. 2. People are progress loving but at the same time they also hate radical changes. Memristors require radical change in the computing design. Memristors are not a plug compatible technology. Dropping a memristor chip or RAM module into an existing system will not work; a system redesign will be required. The question is are the people and industry ready to migrate to a new technology. 3. With the invention of memristor, a new architecture that allows the stacking of multiple crossbar memories on top of each other will have to be designed, which is very difficult to design. 4. By using memristors, we are trying to put the computation near the data, which can be dangerous because, if something happens to the processor i.e. it crashes, the data will also be lost.

5. In spite of all the hype about memristors, the reality is that for now they don't exist commercially now. 6. The other fact is, the facts of development are very secret and are for the few scientists involved in that project. Even the goodwill shown by HP’s by publishing their results on a level, understandable to students is of not much help. 7. Would it be possible to realize such a radical shift in computing by establishing a new Technology, which is not fully developed until now? 8. Inspite of all the efforts to put the computation near the data, by using memristors, the fundamental difference of computation (operator) and data (operands) is still there. 9. The neat hierarchy between computation and data remains untouched even now. 10. The actual commercial and economic benefits of memristor are not known till now.

Will Memristor be a success? More serious research needs to be done on memristors to make them commercially available in the near future, so that their theoretical implications can become more practical. Research should be supported on all levels of accessibility and they will be successful if the idea is properly commercialized as they have a huge potential for changing the way in which the computing system work now a days.

Summary: The memristor is having such a unique property that it can revolutionize the world of computing and can have many other more significant uses, but the proper commercialization of memristor technology needs to be done so that it can become a very powerful technology for the human beings. Much of the energy used today for computation gets wasted in moving data between the hard drive and processor. A memristor-based device, capable of providing both functions, can save a lot of energy and help the computers keep getting more and more faster.

Conclusion: No doubt, a very disruptive technology has been invented by HP, which can go a long way in revolutionizing the world and art of computing, but there are some challenges ahead which need to be tackled before this disruptive technology can be used on a very large scale and for a very large variety of applications. . There is a huge potential market waiting for memristors and for now, the companies will have to work harder to overcome potential manufacturing challenges that arise as they develop memristors for nonvolatile memory and other important applications.


References: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. IEEE TRANSACTIONS ON CIRCUIT THEORY, VOL. CT-18, NO. 5, SEPTEMBER 1971 Wikipedia - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Memristor www.memristor.org http://www.hp.com/hpinfo/newsroom/press/2010/100831c.html www.ns.umich.edu www.technologyreview.com