HP Labs has built a “memristor,” a nanoscale component that can store data without power. It is far denser than current hard drives and faster than RAM memory. The components can function in digital model, on/off, or analog mode in which they’re set to a specific value.
The unlikely invention of the memristor took about 40 years. It started in the early 1970s when electrical engineer Leon Chua was looking at the interplay of electrical forces in the basic elements of circuits: resistors, capacitors and inductors. The same math that explained those three elements indicated that there should be a fourth, which he named the memristor (short for “memory resistor”) in a 1971 paper. A memristor would change its level of electrical resistance if charge were applied and retain or “remember” that resistance until another charge were applied. Like the Higgs boson “god particle,” the memristor made perfect sense on paper, but no one had ever seen one.
Don’t expect these in your MacBook anytime this year. These things will take years to become usable in real applications.