Hewlett-Packard scientists on April 8 are expected to report advances in the design of a new class of diminutive switches capable of replacing transistors as computer chips shrink closer to the atomic scale, reports the New York Times—and these so-called “memristors,” or memory resistors, could lead to a new class of computing devices. The devices were conceived in 1971 by Leon O. Chua, an electrical engineer at the University of California, Berkeley, but they were not put into effect until 2008 at the HP lab in Palo Alto, Calif. They are simpler than today’s semiconducting transistors, can store information even in the absence of an electrical current, and—according to a report in the journal Nature—can be used for both data processing and storage applications. Memristor-based systems also hold out the prospect of fashioning analog computing systems that function more like biological brains, Dr. Chua said. “Our brains are made of memristors,” he said, referring to the function of biological synapses. “We have the right stuff now to build real brains.”

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