Lunar New Year highlights China labour issues
A worker examines a circuit board inside a Foxconn factory in the township of Longhua in the southern Guangdong province May 26, 2010.

Research carried out by Hewlett Packard and the University of California Santa Barbara has taken bold strides, discovering several key lessons about memristors, a phenomenas widely considered to be integral in the development of the next generation of electronics.

Despite being simple devices consisting of nothing more than a thin titanium dioxide film held between two metal electrodes, for years memristors have fascinated researchers for their ability to function as resistors within circuitry, yet despite this they have largely to date remained a mystery.

In a co-run experiment between Hewlett Packard and the University of California, researchers have reportedly managed to take unprecedented steps forward in their understanding of memristors. The experiment reportedly made use of highly-focused X-rays, to examine a device they knew how to make and use, but didn't understand the underlying mechanism of.

The research -- which has subsequently been published in the journal Nanotechnology -- allowed the team to see how current flow caused heating and thus changed the molecular structure of the device revealing several clues about the behaviour of the memirstors'.

NanoElectronics Research Group at HP Labs John Paul Strachan commented:

"One of the biggest hurdles in using these devices is understanding how they work: the microscopic picture for how they undergo such tremendous and reversible change in resistance.

"We now have a direct picture for the thermal profile that is highly localised around this channel during electrical operation, and is likely to play a large role in accelerating the physics driving the memristive behaviour."

The research reportedly found that memristors actually function in a very similar way to the neurons that pass information around the human brain -- a discovery that has led some to believe that they could be used in the development of autonomous robots.

Despite the obvious appeal -- while maintaining that their research is still at its opening stages -- the researchers have put aside the idea of robots, instead focusing on possible applications in for their research in the next stage of memory chips -- some believe the use of memristors will make it possible to develop chips capable of running 10 times faster their flash based equivalent while using only a tenth of the power.