Phase-change memory technology relies on the electrical and optical properties of certain materials changing substantially when the atomic structure of the material is altered by heating or some other excitation process. For example, switching the composite Ge2Sb2Te5 (GST) alloy from its covalently bonded amorphous phase to its resonantly bonded metastable cubic crystalline phase decreases the resistivity by three orders of magnitude, and also increases reflectivity across the visible spectrum. Moreover, phase-change memory based on GST is scalable, and is therefore a candidate to replace Flash memory for non-volatile data storage applications. The energy needed to switch between the two phases depends on the intrinsic properties of the phase-change material and the device architecture; this energy is usually supplied by laser or electrical pulses. The switching energy for GST can be reduced by limiting the movement of the atoms to a single dimension, thus substantially reducing the entropic losses associated with the phase-change process. In particular, aligning the c-axis of a hexagonal Sb 2Te3 layer and the <111> direction of a cubic GeTe layer in a superlattice structure creates a material in which Ge atoms can switch between octahedral sites and lower-coordination sites at the interface of the superlattice layers. Here we demonstrate GeTe/Sb2Te3 interfacial phase-change memory (IPCM) data storage devices with reduced switching energies, improved write-erase cycle lifetimes and faster switching speeds.
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