Memristors – is the “missing” fourth electronic component the key to AI?

Paul Raven @ 13-07-2009

I guess I never got far enough with my failed degree in electronics to discover that there’s a fundamental component missing from the metaphorical toolbox.

But apparently there is… or there was. Now, though, the memristor is more than just a concept, and realising it may provide a key to building artificial intelligences… with a little help from slime molds:

Four interconnected things, mathematics says, can be related in six ways. Charge and current, and magnetic flux and voltage, are connected through their definitions. That’s two. Three more associations correspond to the three traditional circuit elements. A resistor is any device that, when you pass current through it, creates a voltage. For a given voltage a capacitor will store a certain amount of charge. Pass a current through an inductor, and you create a magnetic flux. That makes five. Something missing?

Indeed. Where was the device that connected charge and magnetic flux? The short answer was there wasn’t one. But there should have been.

It’s a fairly lengthy article that covers a lot of ground, so it’s hard to summarize with a quote or two. Go read the whole thing; not only is the science itself quite intriguing, it’s also an example of the better sort of journalism that New Scientist puts out.


Memristors – The new component of electronics

Tomas Martin @ 01-05-2008

A new component of electronics, first proposed in 1971, has been built by researchers at Hewlett Packard. Memristors join the three existing main components of a circuit – capacitors, resistors and inductors. The main feature of a memristor is its ability to ‘remember’ what charge it had when power runs through it.

Today, most PCs use dynamic random access memory (DRAM) which loses data when the power is turned off. But a computer built with memristors could allow PCs that start up instantly, laptops that retain sessions after the battery dies, or mobile phones that can last for weeks without needing a charge. “If you turn on your computer it will come up instantly where it was when you turned it off,” Professor Williams told Reuters.

In addition the memristor is very small and once fully commercialised could allow computer chips far smaller than those today, giving good old Moore’s Law another reprieve as conventional methods to keep it going begin to run out of steam.

[via BBC]