Abstract: The global demand for data storage and processing is increasing exponentially. To deal with this challenge, massive efforts have been devoted to the development of advanced memory and computing technologies. Chalcogenide phase-change materials (PCMs) are currently at the forefront of this endeavor. In this Review, we focus on the mechanisms of the spontaneous structural relaxation – aging – of amorphous PCMs, which causes the well-known resistance drift issue that significantly reduces the device accuracy needed for phase-change memory and computing applications. We review the recent breakthroughs in uncovering the structural origin, achieved through state-of-the-art experiments and ab initio atomistic simulations. Emphasis will be placed on the evolving atomic-level details during the relaxation of the complex amorphous structure. We also highlight emerging strategies to control aging, inspired by the in-depth structural understanding, from both materials science and device engineering standpoints, that offer effective solutions to reduce the resistance drift. In addition, we discuss an important new paradigm – machine learning – and the potential power it brings in interrogating amorphous PCMs as well as other disordered alloy systems. Finally, we present an outlook to comment on future research opportunities in amorphous PCMs, as well as on their reduced aging tendency in other advanced applications such as non-volatile photonics.

Unveiling the structural origin to control resistance drift in phase-change memory materials
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DOI: 10.1016/j.mattod.2020.07.016