A phase change nanowire holds a promise for nonvolatile memory applications, but its transition mechanism has remained unclear due to the analytical difficulties at atomic resolution. Here we obtain a deeper understanding on the phase transition of a single crystalline Ge2Sb2Te5 nanowire (GST NW) using atomic scale imaging, diffraction, and chemical analysis. Our cross-sectional analysis has shown that the as-grown hexagonal close-packed structure of the single crystal GST NW transforms to a metastable face-centered cubic structure due to the atomic migration to the pre-existing vacancy layers in the hcp structure going through iterative electrical switching. We call this crystal structure transformation "metastabilization", which is also confirmed by the increase of set-resistance during the switching operation. For the set to reset transition between crystalline and amorphous phases, high-resolution imaging indicates that the longitudinal center of the nanowire mainly undergoes phase transition. According to the atomic scale analysis of the GST NW after repeated electrical switching, partial crystallites are distributed around the core-centered amorphous region of the nanowire where atomic migration is mainly induced, thus potentially leading to low power electrical switching. These results provide a novel understanding of phase change nanowires, and can be applied to enhance the design of nanowire phase change memory devices for improved electrical performance.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Materials Science(all)
- Condensed Matter Physics
- Mechanical Engineering