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Hewlett-Packard scientists reported Wednesday in the science journal Nature that they have designed a simple circuit element that they believe will make it possible to build tiny powerful computers that could imitate biological functions.
The device, called a memristor, would be used to build extremely dense computer memory chips that use far less power than today’s DRAM memory chips. Manufacturers of today’s chips are rapidly reaching the limit on how much smaller chips can be.
Potentially even more tantalizing is the ability of the memristors to store and retrieve a vast array of intermediate values, not just the binary 1s and 0s conventional chips use. This allows them to function like biological synapses and makes them ideal for many artificial intelligence applications ranging from machine vision to understanding speech....
The Hewlett-Packard team has successfully created working circuits based on memristors that are as small as 15 nanometers (the diameter of an atom is roughly about a tenth of a nanometer.) Ultimately, it will be possible to make memristors as small as about four nanometers.