Is it possible that flash memory could be obsolete in just a few, short years? Hewlett-Packard is betting on it with a new technology — the memristor. If everything goes according to plan, it should hit the market under the name ReRam (Resistive Random Access Memory) in the next 18 months.
The memristor is a very fine wire made from titanium dioxide. It’s only 150 atoms wide. When current is passed through the wire from a particular direction, its resistance changes. You only need two directions for memory: one for zero and the other for one. So memristors are perfect for the job; they will work as long as the memory module is able to measure the resistance and then correctly translate it into the corresponding one or zero.
Memristors would be suitable for use in solid-state drives, which are used for storage and as a replacement for DRAM (onboard memory) and offer enormous advantages over the technology that they would replace. Memristor read times are approximately 10 nanoseconds. Write and erase times are approximately 0.1 nanosecond and the data that is stored in them lasts longer. HP has tested them through 1,000,000,000,000 read and write cycles without encountering data loss. That translates to twice as much storage density and a 10x speed increase – while only consuming a tenth of the energy of traditional DRAM and flash memory.
HP hopes to have ReRam on the market by 2013. But, as with all things computer, it will likely take another year or two after that for the technology to become affordable.