Wang, W., Loke, D., Shi, L., Zhao, R., Yang, H. et al. Enabling universal memory by overcoming the contradictory speed and stability nature of phase-change materials. Scientific Reports 2, 360 (2012).
The quest for universal memory is driving the rapid development of memories with superior all-round capabilities in non-volatility, high speed, high endurance and low power. Phase-change materials are highly promising in this respect. However, their contradictory speed and stability properties present a key challenge towards this ambition. We reveal that as the device size decreases, the phase-change mechanism changes from the material inherent crystallization mechanism (either nucleation- or growth-dominated), to the hetero-crystallization mechanism, which resulted in a significant increase in PCRAM speeds. Reducing the grain size can further increase the speed of phase-change. Such grain size effect on speed becomes increasingly significant at smaller device sizes. Together with the nano-thermal and electrical effects, fast phase-change, good stability and high endurance can be achieved. These findings lead to a feasible solution to achieve a universal memory.