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May 22 2008   11:55AM GMT

What is the missing link of integrated circuitry? The memristor!

GuyPardon Guy Pardon Profile: GuyPardon

The discovery of Thursday’s Word of the Day, memristor, has been theorized about since 1971, when the possibility for a fourth fundamental passive circuit element was first described. The invention, fully described in a Nature article on memristance, The Missing Memristor Found, has thrown the science of integrated circuitry into a bit of…. flux.

[Image Credit: IEEE’s Spectrum]

Ok, terrible electrical engineering joke. Leon Chua (the scientist who first hypothesized about the memristor back in the seventies), as quoted by Margaret Rouse in Overheard in the Blogosphere:

“Electronic theorists have been using the wrong pair of variables all these years–voltage and charge. The missing part of electronic theory was that the fundamental pair of variables is flux and charge. ”

Read HP’s Memristor FAQ for more information.

NPR’s Science Friday recorded a terrific show on May 9th on the discovery. From the shownotes:

Introductory classes in electronics are big on circuit diagrams involving different combinations of resistors, capacitors and inductors. Now, researchers say that they have discovered a fourth fundamental passive circuit element, one that complements those well-known three and fills in a gap in the basic equations that describe the relationships between voltage, current, and magnetic flux. The possibility of such a circuit element, known as the ‘memristor,’ was first described in 1971, but until now no one has found a device with the properties of that missing element. A group of scientists at HP Labs found that in nanoscale materials, however, the ‘memristance’ property becomes easier to see.

The find could lead to lower power, instant-on computers, as well as novel types of circuitry. We’ll talk with one of the discoverers of the modern memristor about the find and its potential applications.

Listen to the memristor show on at ScienceFriday. com or download the MP3 directly to your hard drive. You can subscribe to the Science Friday podcast there as well.

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