HP has unveiled plans to begin building a memristor based computer simply known as ‘The Machine’. Memristors are theoretical electrical components that possess the properties of both resistors and long term electronic storage. Should this project succeed, we could see computers that combine the multiple components in a computer into a single unified circuit.
Memristors were envisioned by Leon Chua in 1971, although examples of the component were not realised until 2008 when it was discovered by HP. A memristor changes its resistance depending on how much of a charge has passed within it, and is able to retain this memory even if the current is turned off. This property allows it to store information in the same fashion as solid state flash memory does, while allowing that memory to be accessed at the same speed as regular DRAM. In other words, it would unite computer DRAM and storage into a single entity.
The Machine will also apparently ditch copper wires for connecting parts, and substitute an optical communications channel using photons. This would require photons to be generated in silicon chips, and the etching of lanes in silicon for the the photons to travel along. Should this be integrated into the computer, HP claims that it will allow for the building of three dimensional components; instead of the current two dimensional circuit boards that are currently used.
This would allow for servers that are six times more powerful than existing designs while using up to 80 times less power. The same technology could also be scaled for use in notebooks and other mobile devices. Considering that it would all be solid state with even fewer moving parts, it would allow for more freedom from manufacturers to build their devices.