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Strain-based room-temperature non-volatile MoTe2 ferroelectric phase change transistor


The primary mechanism of operation of almost all transistors today relies on the electric-field effect in a semiconducting channel to tune its conductivity from the conducting ‘on’ state to a non-conducting ‘off’ state. As transistors continue to scale down to increase computational performance, physical limitations from nanoscale field-effect operation begin to cause undesirable current leakage, which is detrimental to the continued advancement of computing1,2. Using a fundamentally different mechanism of operation, we show that through nanoscale strain engineering with thin films and ferroelectrics the transition metal dichalcogenide MoTe2 can be reversibly switched with electric-field-induced strain between the 1T′-MoTe2 (semimetallic) phase to a semiconducting MoTe2 phase in a field-effect transistor geometry. This alternative mechanism for transistor switching sidesteps all the static and dynamic power consumption problems in conventional field-effect transistors3,4. Using strain, we achieve large non-volatile changes in channel conductivity (Gon/Goff ≈ 107 versus Gon/Goff ≈ 0.04 in the control device) at room temperature. Ferroelectric devices offer the potential to reach sub-nanosecond non-volatile strain switching at the attojoule/bit level5,6,7, with immediate applications in ultrafast low-power non-volatile logic and memory8 while also transforming the landscape of computational architectures because conventional power, speed and volatility considerations for microelectronics may no longer exist.

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Data availability

The data that support the findings of this study are available from the corresponding author upon reasonable request.

Additional information

Journal peer review information: Nature Nanotechnology thanks Young Hee Lee and Robert Simpson for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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This work made use of the Cornell Center for Materials Research Shared Facilities, which are supported through the NSF MRSEC programme (DMR-1719875). The authors thank D.H. Kelley for the borrowed usage of his MBraun glovebox, as well as A. Nick Vamivakas and A. Mukherjee for discussions and assistance with micro-Raman spectroscopy.

Author information

Device fabrication was performed by W.H., A.S., T.P. and A.A. Device characterization was performed by W.H., A.A. and S.M.W. CAFM was performed by W.H., A.S. and S.M.W. Strain gauge calibration was performed by W.H. and S.M.W. Topographic AFM and optical contrast calibration was performed by T.P. Thin-film stress measurements were performed by C.W., A.A., W.H. and S.M.W. Piezoresponse force microscopy was performed by C.W. Raman spectroscopy was performed by A.A. and S.M.W. Finite-element analysis simulation was performed by H.A. PMN-PT single crystals were provided by M.L. The original experiment conception and project supervision were provided by S.M.W.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Correspondence to Stephen M. Wu.

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    Supplementary text and Supplementary Figs. 1–15

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Fig. 1: Device schematic and operation.
Fig. 2: Temperature cycling and non-volatile switching.
Fig. 3: Conductive atomic force microscopy of switching behaviour.
Fig. 4: Effect of contact metals and simulations.