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  • Publication
    Size-Dependent Metal-insulator Transition in Pt-Dispersed Sio2 Thin Film: A Candidate for Future Non-Volatile Memory
    (2011-08-12) Chen, Albert B
    Non-volatile random access memories (NVRAM) are promising data storage and processing devices. Various NVRAM, such as FeRAM and MRAM, have been studied in the past. But resistance switching random access memory (RRAM) has demonstrated the most potential for replacing flash memory in use today. In this dissertation, a novel RRAM material design that relies upon an electronic transition, rather than a phase change (as in chalcogenide Ovonic RRAM) or a structural change (such in oxide and halide filamentary RRAM), is investigated. Since the design is not limited to a single material but applicable to general combinations of metals and insulators, the goal of this study is to use a model material to delineate the intrinsic features of the electronic metal/insulator transition in random systems and to demonstrate their relevance to reliable memory storage and retrieval. We fabricated amorphous SiO2 thin films embedded with randomly dispersed Pt atoms. Macroscopically, this random material exhibits a percolation transition in electric conductivity similar to the one found in various insulator/metal granular materials. However, at Pt concentrations well below the bulk percolation limit, a distinct insulator to metal transition occurs in the thickness direction as the film thickness falls below electron’s “diffusion” distance, which is the tunneling distance at 0K. The thickness-triggered metal-to-insulator transition (MIT) can be similarly triggered by other conditions: (a) a changing Pt concentration (a concentration-triggered MIT), (b) a changing voltage/polarity (voltage-triggered MIT), and (c) an UV irradiation (photon-triggered MIT). The resistance switching characteristics of this random material were further investigated in several device configurations under various test conditions. These include: materials for the top and bottom electrodes, fast pulsing, impedance spectroscopy, static stressing, retention, fatigue and temperature from 10K to 448K. The SiO2-Pt RRAM exhibits fast switching speed (~25 ns), high resistance ratio (>100), long retention time/write time ratio (>1012), multi-bit storage and extraordinary performance reproducibility. The device switches by a purely electronic mechanism: electron trapping makes it an insulator; charge detrapping returns it to a metal. The switching voltages are low, ~ 1 V, and are independent of size, thickness, composition, temperature and write/erase time. The insulator state has a conductance that exponentially decays with the thickness.
  • Publication
    A size-dependent nanoscale metal–insulator transition in random materials
    (2011-01-28) Chen, Albert B.K.; Wang, Yudi; Tung, Wei-Shao; Chen, I-Wei; Kim, Soo Gil
    Insulators and conductors with periodic structures can be readily distinguished, because they have different band structures, but the differences between insulators and conductors with random structures are more subtle. In 1958, Anderson provided a straightforward criterion for distinguishing between random insulators and conductors, based on the 'diffusion' distance ζ for electrons at 0 K (ref. 3). Insulators have a finite ζ, but conductors have an infinite ζ. Aided by a scaling argument, this concept can explain many phenomena in disordered electronic systems, such as the fact that the electrical resistivity of 'dirty' metals always increases as the temperature approaches 0 K (refs 4–6). Further verification for this model has come from experiments that measure how the properties of macroscopic samples vary with changes in temperature, pressure, impurity concentration and applied magnetic field, but, surprisingly, there have been no attempts to engineer a metal–insulator transition by making the sample size less than or more thanζ. Here, we report such an engineered transition using six different thin-film systems: two are glasses that contain dispersed platinum atoms, and four are single crystals of perovskite that contain minor conducting components. With a sample size comparable to ζ, transitions can be triggered by using an electric field or ultraviolet radiation to tune ζ through the injection and extraction of electrons. It would seem possible to take advantage of this nanometallicity in applications.