An amorphous-to-crystal transition in phase-change materials like Ge-Sb-Te is widely used for data storage. The basic principle is to take advantage of the property contrast between the crystalline and amorphous states to encode information; amorphization is believed to be caused by melting the materials with an intense laser or electrical pulse and subsequently quenching the melt. Here, we demonstrate that distortions in the crystalline phase may trigger a collapse of long-range order, generating the amorphous phase without going through the liquid state. We further show that the principal change in optical properties occurs during the distortion of the still crystalline structure, upsetting yet another commonly held belief that attributes the change in properties to the loss of long-range order. Furthermore, our results suggest a way to lower energy consumption by condensing phase change inducing energy into shorter pulses or through the use of coherent phonon excitation.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Chemical Engineering(all)