In this video, HP Labs Research Scientist John Paul Strachan discusses how memristors work and then goes on to show them in action. HP recently announced an ambitious plan to use memristors to build “The Machine,” an ambitious architecture that could ship as soon as the end of the decade. By 2016, the company plans to have memristor-based DIMMs that will combine the high storage densities of hard disks with the high performance of traditional DRAM.
A common analogy for a resistor is a pipe that carries water. The water itself is analogous to electrical charge, the pressure at the input of the pipe is similar to voltage, and the rate of flow of the water through the pipe is like electrical current. Just as with an electrical resistor, the flow of water through the pipe is faster if the pipe is shorter and/or it has a larger diameter. An analogy for a memristor is an interesting kind of pipe that expands or shrinks when water flows through it. If water flows through the pipe in one direction, the diameter of the pipe increases, thus enabling the water to flow faster. If water flows through the pipe in the opposite direction, the diameter of the pipe decreases, thus slowing down the flow of water. If the water pressure is turned off, the pipe will retain it most recent diameter until the water is turned back on. Thus, the pipe does not store water like a bucket (or a capacitor) – it remembers how much water flowed through it.