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Resistive switching materials for information processing


The rapid increase in information in the big-data era calls for changes to information-processing paradigms, which, in turn, demand new circuit-building blocks to overcome the decreasing cost-effectiveness of transistor scaling and the intrinsic inefficiency of using transistors in non-von Neumann computing architectures. Accordingly, resistive switching materials (RSMs) based on different physical principles have emerged for memories that could enable energy-efficient and area-efficient in-memory computing. In this Review, we survey the four physical mechanisms that lead to such resistive switching: redox reactions, phase transitions, spin-polarized tunnelling and ferroelectric polarization. We discuss how these mechanisms equip RSMs with desirable properties for representation capability, switching speed and energy, reliability and device density. These properties are the key enablers of processing-in-memory platforms, with applications ranging from neuromorphic computing and general-purpose memcomputing to cybersecurity. Finally, we examine the device requirements for such systems based on RSMs and provide suggestions to address challenges in materials engineering, device optimization, system integration and algorithm design.

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Fig. 1: Redox RSMs.
Fig. 2: Phase-change RSMs.
Fig. 3: Magnetic-tunnelling RSMs.
Fig. 4: Ferroelectric RSMs.
Fig. 5: Properties of RSMs and application requirements.
Fig. 6: RSM neuromorphic computing applications.
Fig. 7: RSM memcomputing applications.
Fig. 8: RSM cybersecurity applications.


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The authors thank B. Gao, W. Zhang, J. Tang and S. Saveliev for fruitful discussions on the mechanisms of RSMs and thank Y. Peng, W. Song and X. Zhang for helpful discussion on RSM-based computing circuits. Z.W., Q.X. and J.J.Y. thank the US Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR) for support through the MURI program under contract number FA9550-19-1-0213.

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All authors contributed to the discussion of content and reviewed and edited the manuscript prior to submission. Z.W. and J.J.Y. researched data for the article. Z.W., G.W.B., C.S.H., K.L.W., Q.X. and J.J.Y. wrote the article.

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Correspondence to Qiangfei Xia or J. Joshua Yang.

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Wang, Z., Wu, H., Burr, G.W. et al. Resistive switching materials for information processing. Nat Rev Mater 5, 173–195 (2020).

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