The Memristors Are Coming, But Why Should You Care?

The Memristors Are Coming:

The nanotech world is abuzz over a recent announcement that HP will partner with semi manufacturer Hynix to bring memristor memory devices to market within 3 years.

Such a development would be unprecedented. So far, no single component has been able to replace both DRAM and flash. DRAM is cheap but volatile, meaning it loses data when the power is turned off. Nonvolatile flash memory, by contrast, doesn’t need power to retain its data but is too expensive for the volume necessary for main hard disks. (Right now, 250 gigabytes of DRAM costs US $60, but the same amount of flash memory will set you back almost $800.)

In both kinds of memory, data is stored as charge. The problem is that the envelope for the electrons that constitute a discrete charge can’t be made much smaller. That makes it difficult to squeeze more memory into the same size footprint for the same cost. (IEEE Spectrum)

What the Heck is a Memristor?:

Memristors, or “memory resistors,” take advantage of the fact that passing electrical current through particular types of material will change the molecular structure of that material so that it “remembers” which way the current was running, and at what voltage, even when the power is turned off.

Memristors are said to represent a “fourth class” of basic electrical circuit, alongside resistors, capacitors and inductors. The concept behind memristors was first proposed in 1971 by circuit theorist Leon Chua, but for decades it was nothing more than a concept. (Cosmic Log @ MSNBC)

Memristors, like capacitors, inductors, and resistors are passive devices. Passive devices don’t introduce additional energy into a circuit and they don’t have gain — the only energy they need to operate is the signal itself (unlike active devices, which need additional current for biasing, amplification, etc.) They “record” data by having a resistance that changes depending the direction and intensity of current flowing through them. When the current stops flowing, the resistance (high or low in binary, for example) remains in the last state it was in indefinitely, until current is again applied.

Why You Should Care:

Memristors represent a new, all-purpose form of memory that has the non-volatility of flash combined with (eventually) the low cost and speed of DRAM. The other thing memristors have going for them is that they do not store data as charge, and they require a minimum amount of charge to read from and write to, compared to current techs. This translates to lower power requirements (you no longer have to dedicate some portion of your supply to keeping DRAM alive during operation) and denser memories (you no longer have a minimum footprint dictated by the actual size of the electrons comprising the stored charge).

At the moment, it appears HP will be marketing discrete memory modules with this technology, but it is only a matter of time before memristive memory (or Resistive RAM, as HP calls it) is deployed within larger types of circuits, including microcontrollers. Lower power, smaller MCUs with bigger, faster program memories mean smarter, wireless embedded devices. There are still many hurdles to get over before we attain a true Internet of Things, but memristors represent another small step towards a culture of spimes.

Adafruit publishes a wide range of writing and video content, including interviews and reporting on the maker market and the wider technology world. Our standards page is intended as a guide to best practices that Adafruit uses, as well as an outline of the ethical standards Adafruit aspires to. While Adafruit is not an independent journalistic institution, Adafruit strives to be a fair, informative, and positive voice within the community – check it out here:

Join Adafruit on Mastodon

Adafruit is on Mastodon, join in!

Stop breadboarding and soldering – start making immediately! Adafruit’s Circuit Playground is jam-packed with LEDs, sensors, buttons, alligator clip pads and more. Build projects with Circuit Playground in a few minutes with the drag-and-drop MakeCode programming site, learn computer science using the CS Discoveries class on, jump into CircuitPython to learn Python and hardware together, TinyGO, or even use the Arduino IDE. Circuit Playground Express is the newest and best Circuit Playground board, with support for CircuitPython, MakeCode, and Arduino. It has a powerful processor, 10 NeoPixels, mini speaker, InfraRed receive and transmit, two buttons, a switch, 14 alligator clip pads, and lots of sensors: capacitive touch, IR proximity, temperature, light, motion and sound. A whole wide world of electronics and coding is waiting for you, and it fits in the palm of your hand.

Have an amazing project to share? The Electronics Show and Tell is every Wednesday at 7pm ET! To join, head over to YouTube and check out the show’s live chat – we’ll post the link there.

Join us every Wednesday night at 8pm ET for Ask an Engineer!

Join over 36,000+ makers on Adafruit’s Discord channels and be part of the community!

CircuitPython – The easiest way to program microcontrollers –

Maker Business — “Packaging” chips in the US

Wearables — Enclosures help fight body humidity in costumes

Electronics — Transformers: More than meets the eye!

Python for Microcontrollers — Python on Microcontrollers Newsletter: Silicon Labs introduces CircuitPython support, and more! #CircuitPython #Python #micropython @ThePSF @Raspberry_Pi

Adafruit IoT Monthly — Guardian Robot, Weather-wise Umbrella Stand, and more!

Microsoft MakeCode — MakeCode Thank You!

EYE on NPI — Maxim’s Himalaya uSLIC Step-Down Power Module #EyeOnNPI @maximintegrated @digikey

New Products – Adafruit Industries – Makers, hackers, artists, designers and engineers! — #NewProds 7/19/23 Feat. Adafruit Matrix Portal S3 CircuitPython Powered Internet Display!

Get the only spam-free daily newsletter about wearables, running a "maker business", electronic tips and more! Subscribe at !


  1. I just had a geek-gasm!

  2. “Right now, 250 gigabytes of DRAM costs US $60”
    Where can I get 1/4 of a terabyte of RAM?? :p

  3. *Face Palm* Why didn’t I think of that…

  4. I think you may be 2 orders of magnitude off. 4GiB of DRAM currently costs about 100USD. So you’re actually looking at 6250USD to get 250GiB of DRAM.

  5. She (Sally Adee, the IEEE author) is talking about DRAM in general, not DDRx SDRAM that you use in a computer. The SDRAM is more expensive because all the chips on a board (and in a pair) have to be matched and satisfy certain timing requirements, plus they have added sychronization circuitry (hence the ‘S’).

    Further, I believe she is referring to manufacturing cost, not retail cost.

  6. When will memristors be available at adafruit?
    I’ll want to use them as soon as they are available.


Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.