HP's new tech 'could change computing'

Hardware giant shows off newly-discovered uses for 'memristor' device
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Hewlett-Packard’s research arm has developed a technology that could potentially change the way PCs are designed, creating much more efficient machines.

Scientists at HP Labs have discovered that the ‘memristor’, which was first demonstrated by the firm in 2008, has more capabilities than previously thought.

As well as being useful for storage, the device – a resistor with memory that represents the fourth basic circuit element in electrical engineering – can be used to process data, meaning that in future chips could store and process data in the same device.

“Memristive devices could change the standard paradigm of computing by enabling calculations to be performed in the chips where data is stored rather than in a specialised central processing unit. Thus, we anticipate the ability to make more compact and power-efficient computing systems well into the future, even after it is no longer possible to make transistors smaller via the traditional Moore’s Law approach,” said R Stanley Williams, senior fellow and director of HP’s information and quantum systems lab.

According to HP, because memristors do not ‘forget’, they could allow PCs to “turn on and off like a light switch”. They use less energy, are faster than solid-state storage and can apparently store twice the data in the same area.

The firm also claims that memristor-based processors could eventually replace silicon in many applications.

HP predicts that it could be launching incorporating the component within the next few years.

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