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Scientists Create First Memristor: Missing Fourth Electronic Circuit Element By Bryan Gardiner April 30, 2008 | 10:03

:03 am | Categories: Uncategorized

Researchers at HP Labs have built the first working prototypes of an important new electronic component that may lead to instant-on PCs as well as analog computers that process information the way the human brain does. The new component is called a memristor, or memory resistor. Up until today, the circuit element had only been described in a series of mathematical equations written by Leon Chua, who in 1971 was an engineering student studying non-linear circuits. Chua knew the circuit element should exist he even accurately outlined its properties and how it would work. Unfortunately, neither he nor the rest of the engineering community could come up with a physical manifestation that matched his mathematical expression. Thirty-seven years later, a group of scientists from HP Labs has finally built real working memristors, thus adding a fourth basic circuit element to electrical circuit theory, one that will join the three better-known ones: the capacitor, resistor and the inductor. Researchers believe the discovery will pave the way for instant-on PCs, more energyefficient computers, and new analog computers that can process and associate information in a manner similar to that of the human brain. According to R. Stanley Williams, one of four researchers at HP Labs Information and Quantum Systems Lab who made the discovery, the most interesting characteristic of a memristor device is that it remembers the amount of charge that flows through it. Indeed, Chuas original idea was that the resistance of a memristor would depend upon how much charge has gone through the device. In other words, you can flow the charge in one direction and the resistance will increase. If you push the charge in the opposite direction it will decrease. Put simply, the resistance of the devices at any point in time is a function of history of the device - or how much charge went through it either forwards or backwards. That simple idea, now that it has been proven, will have profound effect on computing and computer science.

"Part of whats going to come out of this is something none of us can imagine yet," says Williams. "But what we can imagine in and of itself is actually pretty cool." For one thing, Williams says these memristors can be used as either digital switches or to build a new breed of analog devices. For the former, Williams says scientists can now think about fabricating a new type of non-volatile random access memory (RAM) or memory chips that dont forget what power state they were in when a computer is shut off. Thats the big problem with DRAM today, he says. "When you turn the power off on your PC, the DRAM forgets what was there. So the next time you turn the power on youve got to sit there and wait while all of this stuff that you need to run your computer is loaded into the DRAM from the hard disk." With non-volatile RAM, that process would be instantaneous and your PC would be in the same state as when you turned it off. Scientists also envision building other types of circuits in which the memristor would be used as an analog device. Indeed, Leon himself noted the similarity between his own predictions of the properties for a memristor and what was then known about synapses in the brain. One of his suggestions was that you could perhaps do some type of neuronal computing using memristors. HP Labs thinks thats actually a very good idea. "Building an analog computer in which you dont use 1s and 0s and instead use essentially all shades of gray in between is one of the things were already working on," says Williams. These computers could do the types of things that digital computers arent very good at - like making decisions, determining that one thing is larger than another, or even learning. While a lot of researchers are currently trying to write a computer code that simulates brain function on a standard machine, they have to use huge machines with enormous processing power to simulate only tiny portions of the brain. Williams and his team say they can now take a different approach: "Instead of writing a computer program to simulate a brain or simulate some brain function, were actually looking to build some hardware based upon memristors that emulates brain-like functions," says Williams. Such hardware could be used to improve things like facial recognition technology, and enable an appliance to essentially learn from experience, he says. In principle, this should also be thousands or millions of times more efficient than running a program on a digital computer. The results of HP Labs teams findings will be published in a paper in todays edition of Nature. As far as when we might see memristors actually being used in actual commercial devices, Williams says the limitations are more business oriented than technological.

Ultimately, the problem is going to be related to the time and effort involved in designing a memristor circuit, he says. "The money invested in circuit design is actually much larger than building fabs. In fact, you can use any fab to make these things right now, but somebody also has to design the circuits and theres currently no memristor model. The key is going to be getting the necessary tools out into the community and finding a niche application for memristors. How long this will take is more of a business decision than a technological one."

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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

This article may need to be updated. Please update this article to reflect recent events or newly available information, and remove this template when finished. Please see the talk page for more information. (September 2010)

An array of 17 purpose-built oxygen-depleted titanium dioxide memristors built atHP Labs, imaged by an atomic force microscope. The wires are about 50 nm, or 150 atoms, wide.[1] Electric current through the memristors shifts the oxygen vacancies, causing a gradual and persistent change inelectrical resistance.[2]

A memristor /mmrstr/ (a portmanteau of "memory resistor") is a passive two-terminal circuit element in which the resistance is a function of the time history of the current and voltage through the device. Memristor theory was formulated and named by Leon Chua in a 1971 paper.[3] On April 30, 2008 a team at HP Labs announced the development of a switching memristor. Based on a thin film of titanium dioxide, it has a regime of operation with an approximately linear charge-resistance relationship.[4][5]

These devices are being developed for application in nanoelectronic memories, computer logic,

and neuromorphic computer architectures.[7]


Memristor symbol.

A memristor is a passive two-terminal electronic component for which the resistance (dV/dI) is proportional to the amount of charge that has flowed through the circuit. When current flows in one direction through the device, the resistance increases; and when current flows in the opposite direction, the resistance decreases. When the current is stopped, the component retains the last resistance that it had, and when the flow of charge starts again, the resistance of the circuit will be what it was when it was last active.[8]. More generally, a memristor is a two-terminal component in which the resistance depends on the integral of the input applied to the terminals, rather than on the instantaneous value of the input at the terminals. Since the element "remembers" the amount of current that has passed through it in the past, it was tagged by Chua with the name "memristor." A general memristor is any of various kinds of passive two-terminal circuit elements that maintain a functional relationship between the time integrals of current and voltage. This function, called memristance, is similar to variable resistance. Specifically engineered memristors provide controllable resistance, but such devices are not commercially available. Other devices such as batteries and varistors have memristance, but it does not normally dominate their behavior. The definition of the memristor is based solely on fundamental circuit variables, similar to the resistor, capacitor, and inductor. Unlike those three elements, which are allowed in linear time-invariant or LTI system theory, memristors are nonlinear and may be described by any of a variety of time-varying functions of net charge. There is no such thing as a generic memristor. Instead, each device implements a particular function, wherein either the integral of voltage determines the integral of current, or vice versa. A linear time-invariant memristor is simply a conventional resistor.[9] In his 1971 paper, memristor theory was formulated and named by Leon Chua,[3] extrapolating the conceptual symmetry between the resistor, inductor, and capacitor, and inferring that the memristor is a similarly fundamental device. Other scientists had already proposed fixed nonlinear flux-charge relationships, but Chua's theory introduced generality. Like other two-terminal components (e.g., resistor, capacitor, inductor), real-world devices are never purely memristors ("ideal memristor"), but will also exhibit some amount of capacitance, resistance, and inductance.

[edit]Theory The memristor is essentially a two-terminal variable resistor, with resistance dependent upon the amount of charge q that has passed between the terminals.

To relate the memristor to the resistor, capacitor, and inductor, it is helpful to isolate the term M(q), which characterizes the device, and write it as a differential equation. where Q is defined by Q = dI/dt, and m is defined by V = dm/dt. Note that the above table covers all meaningful ratios of I, Q, m, and V. No device can relate I to Q, or m to V, because I is the integral of Q and m is the integral of V. The variable m ("magnetic flux linkage") is a generalized from the circuit characteristic of an inductor. It does not represent a magnetic field here, and its physical meaning is discussed below. The symbol m may simply be regarded as the integral of voltage over time.[10] Thus, the memristor is formally defined[3] as a two-terminal element in which the flux linkage (or integral of voltage) m between the terminals is a function of the amount of electric charge Q that has passed through the device. Each memristor is characterized by its memristance function describing the charge-dependent rate of change of flux with charge.

Substituting that magnetic flux is simply the time integral of voltage, and charge is the time integral of current, we may write the more convenient form

It can be inferred from this that memristance is simply charge-dependent resistance. If M(q(t)) is a constant, then we obtain Ohm's Law R(t) = V(t)/ I(t). If M(q(t)) is nontrivial, however, the equation is not equivalent because q(t) and M(q(t)) will vary with time. Solving for voltage as a function of time we obtain

This equation reveals that memristance defines a linear relationship between current and voltage, as long as M does not vary with charge. Of course, nonzero current implies time varying charge.Alternating current, however, may reveal the linear dependence in circuit operation by inducing a measurable voltage without net charge movementas long as the maximum change in q does not cause much change in M.

Furthermore, the memristor is static if no current is applied. If I(t) = 0, we find V(t) = 0 and M(t) is constant. This is the essence of the memory effect. The power consumption characteristic recalls that of a resistor, I2R.

As long as M(q(t)) varies little, such as under alternating current, the memristor will appear as a resistor. If M(q(t)) increases rapidly, however, current and power consumption will quickly stop. [edit]Derivation

of "flux linkage" in a passive device

In an inductor, magnetic flux m relates to Faraday's law of induction, which states that the energy to push charges around a loop (electromotive force, in units of Volts) equals the negative derivative of the flux through the loop:

This notion may be extended by analogy to a single device. Working against an accelerating force (which may be EMF, or any applied voltage), a resistor produces a decelerating force, and an associated "flux linkage" varying with opposite sign. For example, a high-valued resistor will quickly produce flux linkage. The term "flux linkage" is generalized from the equation for inductors, where it represents a physical magnetic flux: If 1 Volt is applied across an inductor for 1 second, then there is 1 Vs of flux linkage in the inductor, which represents energy stored in a magnetic field that may later be obtained from it. The same voltage over the same time across a resistor results in the same flux linkage (as defined here, in units of V-s), but the energy is dissipated, rather than stored in a magnetic field there is no physical magnetic field involved as a link to anything. Voltage for passive devices is evaluated in terms of energy lost by a unit of charge, so generalizing the above equation simply requires reversing the sense of EMF.

Observing that m is simply equal to the integral over time of the potential drop between two points, we find that it may readily be calculated, for example by an operational amplifier configured as anintegrator. Two unintuitive concepts are at play:

Magnetic flux is defined here as generated by a resistance in

opposition to an applied field or electromotive force. In the absence of resistance, flux due to constant EMF, and the magnetic fieldwithin the circuit, would increase indefinitely. The opposing flux induced in a resistor must also increase indefinitely so the sum with applied EMF remains finite.

Any appropriate response to applied voltage may be called

"magnetic flux," as the term is used here. The upshot is that a passive element may relate some variable to flux without storing a magnetic field. Indeed, a memristor always appears instantaneously as a resistor. As shown above, assuming non-negative resistance, at any instant it is dissipating power from an applied EMF and thus has no outlet to dissipate a stored field into the circuit. This contrasts with an inductor, for which a magnetic field stores all energy originating in the potential across its terminals, later releasing it as an electromotive force within the circuit. [edit]Physical

restrictions on M(q)

An applied constant voltage potential results in uniformly increasing m. Numerically, infinite memory resources, or an infinitely strong field, would be required to store a number which grows arbitrarily large. Three alternatives avoid this physical impossibility:

M(q) approaches zero, such that m = M(q)dq =

M(q(t))I dt remains bounded but continues changing at an everdecreasing rate. Eventually, this would encounter some kind of quantization and non-ideal behavior.

M(q) is periodic, so that M(q) = M(q q) for all q and some

q, e.g. sin2(q/Q).

The device enters hysteresis once a certain amount of charge

has passed through, or otherwise ceases to act as a memristor. [edit]Memristive


The memristor was generalized to memristive systems in a 1976 paper by Leon Chua.[11] Whereas a memristor has mathematically scalar state, a system has vector state. The number of state variables is independent of, and usually greater than, the number of terminals. In this paper, Chua applied this model to empirically observed phenomena, including the Hodgkin-Huxley model of the axon and a thermistor at constant ambient temperature. He also described

memristive systems in terms of energy storage and easily observed electrical characteristics. These characteristics match resistive random-access memory and phase-change memory, relating the theory to active areas of research. In the more general concept of an n-th order memristive system the defining equations are

where the vector w represents a set of n state variables describing the device.[12] The pure memristor is a particular case of these equations, namely when M depends only on charge (w=q) and since the charge is related to the current via the time derivative dq/dt=I. For pure memristors f is not an explicit function of I.[12] [edit]Operation

as a switch

For some memristors, applied current or voltage will cause a great change in resistance. Such devices may be characterized as switches by investigating the time and energy that must be spent in order to achieve a desired change in resistance. Here we will assume that the applied voltage remains constant and solve for the energy dissipation during a single switching event. For a memristor to switch from Ron to Roff in time Ton to Toff, the charge must change by Q = QonQoff.

To arrive at the final expression, substitute V=I(q)M(q), and then dq/V = Q/V for constant V. This power characteristic differs fundamentally from that of a metal oxide semiconductor transistor, which is a capacitorbased device. Unlike the transistor, the final state

of the memristor in terms of charge does not depend on bias voltage. The type of memristor described by Williams ceases to be ideal after switching over its entire resistance range and enters hysteresis, also called the "hard-switching regime."[13] Another kind of switch would have a cyclic M(q) so that each offon event would be followed by an on-off event under constant bias. Such a device would act as a memristor under all conditions, but would be less practical. [edit]Implementations [edit]Titanium

dioxide memristor

Interest in the memristor revived in 2008 when an experimental solid state version was reported by R. Stanley Williams of Hewlett Packard.[14][15]

The article was the first to demonstrate that a

solid-state device could have the characteristics of a memristor based on the behavior of nanoscale thin films. The device neither uses magnetic flux as the theoretical memristor suggested, nor stores charge as a capacitor does, but instead achieves a resistance dependent on the history of current. Although not cited in HP's initial reports on their TiO2 memristor, the resistance switching characteristics of titanium dioxide was originally described in the 1960s.[17] The HP device is composed of a thin (50 nm) titanium dioxide film between two 5 nm thick electrodes, one Ti, the other Pt. Initially, there are two layers to the titanium dioxide film, one of which has a slight depletion of oxygen atoms. The

oxygen vacancies act as charge carriers, meaning that the depleted layer has a much lower resistance than the non-depleted layer. When an electric field is applied, the oxygen vacancies drift (see Fast ion conductor), changing the boundary between the high-resistance and low-resistance layers. Thus the resistance of the film as a whole is dependent on how much charge has been passed through it in a particular direction, which is reversible by changing the direction of current.

Since the HP device displays fast ion conduction

at nanoscale, it is considered a nanoionic device.


Memristance is displayed only when both the doped layer and depleted layer contribute to resistance. When enough charge has passed through the memristor that the ions can no longer move, the device enters hysteresis. It ceases to integrate q=Idt but rather keeps q at an upper bound and M fixed, thus acting as a resistor until current is reversed. Memory applications of thin-film oxides had been an area of active investigation for some time. IBM published an article in 2000 regarding structures similar to that described by Williams.

Samsunghas a U.S. patent for oxide-vacancy

based switches similar to that described by Williams.[20] Williams also has a pending U.S. patent application related to the memristor construction.[21] Although the HP memristor is a major discovery for electrical engineering theory, it has yet to be demonstrated in operation at practical speeds and densities. Graphs in Williams' original report show switching operation at only ~1 Hz. Although the

small dimensions of the device seem to imply fast operation, the charge carriers move very slowly, with an ion mobility of 1010 cm2/(V*s). In comparison, the highest known drift ionic mobilities occur in advanced superionic conductors, such as rubidium silver iodide with about 2104 cm2/ (V*s) conducting silver ions at room temperature. Electrons and holes in silicon have a mobility ~1000 cm2/(V*s), a figure which is essential to the performance of transistors. However, a relatively low bias of 1 volt was used, and the plots appear to be generated by a mathematical model rather than a laboratory experiment.[5] In April 2010, HP labs announced that they had practical memristors working at 1ns switching times and 3 nm by 3 nm sizes, with electron/hole mobility of 1m/s[22] , which bodes well for the future of the technology.[23] At these densities it could easily rival the current sub-25 nm flash memory technology. [edit]Polymeric


In July 2008, Victor Erokhin and Marco P. Fontana, in Electrochemically controlled polymeric device: a memristor (and more) found two years ago,

claim to have developed a polymeric memristor

before the titanium dioxide memristor more recently announced. In 2004, Juri H. Krieger and Stuart M. Spitzer published a paper "Non-traditional, Non-volatile Memory Based on Switching and Retention Phenomena in Polymeric Thin Films"[25] at the IEEE Non-Volatile Memory Technology Symposium, describing the process of dynamic doping of polymer and inorganic dielectric-like materials in

order to improve the switching characteristics and retention required to create functioning nonvolatile memory cells. Described is the use of a special passive layer between electrode and active thin films, which enhances the extraction of ions from the electrode. It is possible to use fast ion conductor as this passive layer, which allows to significantly decrease the ionic extraction field. [edit]Spin

memristive systems

[edit]Spintronic Memristor Yiran Chen and Xiaobin Wang, researchers at disk-drive manufacturer Seagate Technology, in Bloomington, Minnesota, described three examples of possible magnetic memristors in March, 2009 in IEEE Electron Device Letters.[26] In one of the three, resistance is caused by the spin of electrons in one section of the device pointing in a different direction than those in another section, creating a "domain wall," a boundary between the two states. Electrons flowing into the device have a certain spin, which alters the magnetization state of the device. Changing the magnetization, in turn, moves the domain wall and changes the device's resistance. This work attracted significant attention from the electronics press, including an interview by IEEE Spectrum.[27] [edit]Spin Torque Transfer

Spin Torque Transfer MRAM is a well-known device that exhibits memristive behavior. The resistance is dependent on the relative spin orientation between two sides of a magnetic tunnel junction. This in turn can be controlled by the spin

torque induced by the current flowing through the junction. However, the length of time the current flows through the junction determines the amount of current needed, i.e., the charge flowing through is the key variable.[28] Additionally, as reported by Krzysteczko et al.,

MgO based magnetic tunnel junctions show

memristive behavior based on the drift of oxygen vacancies within the insulating MgO layer (resistive switching). Therefore, the combination of spin transfer torque and resistive switching leads naturally to a second-order memristive system with w=(w1,w2) where w1 describes the magnetic state of the magnetic tunnel junction and w2 denotes the resistive state of the MgO barrier. Note that in this case the change of w1 is current-controlled (spin torque is due to a high current density) whereas the change of w2 is voltage-controlled (the drift of oxygen vacancies is due to high electric fields). [edit]Spin Memrisitive System A fundamentally different mechanism for memristive behavior has been proposed by Yuriy V. Pershin and Massimiliano Di Ventra in their paper "Spin memristive systems".[30] The authors show that certain types of semiconductor spintronic structures belong to a broad class of memristive systems as defined by Chua and Kang.[11] The mechanism of memristive behavior in such structures is based entirely on the electron spin degree of freedom which allows for a more convenient control than the ionic transport in nanostructures. When an external control parameter (such as voltage) is changed, the adjustment of electron spin polarization is delayed

because of the diffusion and relaxation processes causing a hysteresis-type behavior. This result was anticipated in the study of spin extraction at semiconductor/ferromagnet interfaces,[31] but was not described in terms of memristive behavior. On a short time scale, these structures behave almost as an ideal memristor.[3] This result broadens the possible range of applications of semiconductor spintronics and makes a step forward in future practical applications of the concept of memristive systems. [edit]Manganite memristive systems Although not described using the word "memristor", a study was done of bilayer oxide films based on manganite for non-volatile memory by researchers at the University of Houston in 2001.[32] Some of the graphs indicate a tunable resistance based on the number of applied voltage pulses similar to the effects found in the titanium dioxide memristor materials described in the Nature paper "The missing memristor found". [edit]Resonant

tunneling diode

In 1994, F. A. Buot and A. K. Rajagopal of the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory demonstrated[33] that a 'bow-tie' current-voltage (I-V) characteristics occurs in AlAs/GaAs/AlAs quantum-well diodes containing special doping design of the spacer layers in the source and drain regions, in agreement with the published experimental results.

This 'bow-tie' current-voltage (I-V) characteristic

is characteristic of a memristor although the term memristor was not explicitly used in their papers.

No magnetic interaction is involved in the analysis of the 'bow-tie' I-V characteristics. [edit]3-terminal

Memristor (Memistor)

Although the memristor is defined in terms of a 2terminal circuit element, there was an implementation of a 3-terminal device called a memistor developed by Bernard Widrow in 1960. Memistors formed basic components of a neural network architecture called ADALINE developed by Widrow and Ted Hoff (who later invented the microprocessor at Intel). In one of the technical reports[35] the memistor was described as follows: Like the transistor, the memistor is a 3-terminal element. The conductance between two of the terminals is controlled by the time integral of the current in the third, rather than its instantaneous value as in the transistor. Reproducible elements have been made which are continuously variable (thousands of possible analog storage levels), and which typically vary in resistance from 100 ohms to 1 ohm, and cover this range in about 10 seconds with several milliamperes of plating current. Adaptation is accomplished by direct current while sensing the neuron logical structure is accomplished nondestructively by passing alternating currents through the arrays of memistor cells. Since the conductance was described as being controlled by the time integral of current as in Chua's theory of the memristor, the memistor of Widrow may be considered as a form of memristor having three instead of two terminals. However, one of the main limitations of Widrow's memistors was that they were made from an electroplating

cell rather than as a solid-state circuit element. Solid-state circuit elements were required to achieve the scalability of the integrated circuit which was gaining popularity around the same time as the invention of Widrow's memistor. A Google Knol article suggests that the Floating Gate MOSFET as well as other 3-terminal "memory transistors" may be modeled using memristive systems equations.[36] [edit]Potential


Williams' solid-state memristors can be combined into devices called crossbar latches, which could replace transistors in future computers, taking up a much smaller area. They can also be fashioned into non-volatile solidstate memory, which would allow greater data density than hard drives with access times potentially similar to DRAM, replacing both components.[37]HP prototyped a crossbar latch memory using the devices that can fit 100 gigabits in a square centimeter, and has designed a highly scalable 3D design (consisting of up to 1000 layers or 1 petabit per cm3).[7] HP has reported that its version of the memristor is currently about one-tenth the speed of DRAM.

The devices' resistance would be read

with alternating current so that the stored value would not be affected.[39] Some patents related to memristors appear to include applications in programmable logic,
[40] [42]

signal processing,[41] neural networks, and control systems.[43]

Recently, a simple electronic circuit consisting of an LC network and a memristor was used to model experiments on adaptive behavior of unicellular organisms. It was shown that the electronic circuit subjected to a train of periodic pulses learns and anticipates the next pulse to come, similarly to the behavior of slime molds Physarum polycephalum subjected to periodic changes of environment. Such a learning circuit may find applications, e.g., in pattern recognition. [Edit]Memcapacitors


In 2009, Massimiliano Di Ventra, Yuriy Pershin and Leon Chua co-wrote an article[46] extending the notion of memristive systems to capacitive and inductive elements in the form of memcapacitors and meminductors whose properties depend on the state and history of the system.