ANN ARBOR--A new way of arranging advanced computer components called memristors on a chip could enable them to be used for general computing, which could cut energy consumption by a factor of 100.

But although the processors and memories are very fast, they can't be efficient because they have to wait for data to come in and out," said Wei Lu, U-M professor of electrical and computer engineering and co-founder of memristor startup Crossbar Inc.

Memristors might be the answer.

Named as a portmanteau of memory and resistor, they can be programmed to have different resistance states--meaning they store information as resistance levels.

Some applications, such as computing that mimics the brain (neuromorphic), take advantage of the analog nature of memristors.

But for ordinary computing, trying to differentiate among small variations in the current passing through a memristor device is not precise enough for numerical calculations.

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