Metal–insulator–metal devices known as memristors offer voltage-regulated nanoscale conductivity and are of interest in the development of non-volatile random access memory. Typically, however, their tunable conductivity is the result of migrating ions within a stochastically formed filament, and as such their combined resistor–memory performance suffers. Here we show that amorphous silicon compositions, which are doped with oxygen or nitrogen and sandwiched between metal electrodes, can be used to create purely electronic memristors. The devices have coherent electron wave functions that extend to the full device thickness (more than 15 nm) and, despite the thinness and very high aspect ratio of the devices, electrons still follow an isotropic, three-dimensional pathway, thus providing uniform conductivity at the nanoscale. Such pathways in amorphous insulators are derived from overlapping gap states and regulated by trapped charge, which is stabilized by electron–lattice interaction. As a result, the nanometallic memristors also exhibit pressure-triggered insulator-to-metal transitions. Our silicon-based memristors, which could be readily integrated into silicon technology, are purely electronic and offer switching capabilities that are fast, uniform, durable, multi-state and low power.
Subscribe to Journal
Get full journal access for 1 year
only $8.25 per issue
All prices are NET prices.
VAT will be added later in the checkout.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Rent or Buy article
Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.
All prices are NET prices.
The data that support the plots within this paper and other findings of this study are available from the corresponding author upon reasonable request.
Chua, L. O. Memristor—the missing circuit element. IEEE Trans. Circuit Theory 18, 507–519 (1971).
Strukov, D. B., Snider, G. S., Stewart, D. R. & Williams, R. S. The missing memristor found. Nature 453, 80–83 (2008).
Kim, K. M., Jeong, D. S. & Hwang, C. S. Nanofilamentary resistive switching in binary oxide system; a review on the present status and outlook. Nanotechnology 22, 254002 (2011).
Wong, H.-S. P. et al. Metal–oxide RRAM. Proc. IEEE 100, 1951–1970 (2012).
Yang, J. J., Strukov, D. B. & Stewart, D. R. Memristive devices for computing. Nat. Nanotechnol. 8, 13–24 (2013).
Zidan, M. A., Strachan, J. P. & Lu, W. D. The future of electronics based on memristive systems. Nat. Electron. 1, 22–29 (2018).
Waser, R. & Aono, M. Nanoionics-based resistive switching memories. Nat. Mater. 6, 833–840 (2007).
Waser, R., Dittmann, R., Staikov, G. & Szot, K. Redox-based resistive switching memories—nanoionic mechanisms, prospects, and challenges. Adv. Mater. 21, 2632–2663 (2009).
Yang, Y. & Lu, W. Nanoscale resistive switching devices: mechanisms and modeling. Nanoscale 5, 10076–10092 (2013).
Hwang, C. S. & Dieny, B. Advanced memory—materials for a new era of information technology. MRS Bull. 43, 330–333 (2018).
Mehonic, A. et al. Intrinsic resistance switching in amorphous silicon oxide for high performance SiOx ReRAM devices. Microelectron. Eng. 178, 98–103 (2017).
Mehonic, A. et al. Silicon oxide (SiOx): a promising material for resistance switching?. Adv. Mater. 30, 1801187 (2018).
Chen, A. B., Kim, S. G., Wang, Y., Tung, W. S. & Chen, I. W. A size-dependent nanoscale metal–insulator transition in random materials. Nat. Nanotechnol. 6, 237–241 (2011).
Choi, B. J., Chen, A. B., Yang, X. & Chen, I. W. Purely electronic switching with high uniformity, resistance tunability, and good retention in Pt‐dispersed SiO2 thin films for ReRAM. Adv. Mater. 23, 3847–3852 (2011).
Yang, X., Tudosa, I., Choi, B. J., Chen, A. B. & Chen, I. W. Resolving voltage–time dilemma using an atomic-scale lever of subpicosecond electron–phonon interaction. Nano Lett. 14, 5058–5067 (2014).
Lu, Y., Yoon, J. H., Dong, Y. & Chen, I. W. Purely electronic nanometallic resistance switching random-access memory. MRS Bull. 43, 358–364 (2018).
Sheng, P. Introduction to Wave Scattering, Localization and Mesoscopic Phenomena Vol. 88, 5 (Springer, 2006).
Lu, Y. & Chen, I. W. Conducting electrons in amorphous Si nanostructures: coherent interference and metal–insulator transitions mediated by local structures. Preprint at https://arxiv.org/abs/1703.02203 (2017).
Lu, Y. Quantum Electronic Interference in Nano Amorphous Silicon and Other Thin Film Resistance Memory. PhD thesis, Univ. Pennsylvania (2017); https://repository.upenn.edu/edissertations/3020
Yang, J. J. et al. Memristive switching mechanism for metal/oxide/metal nanodevices.Nat. Nanotechnol. 3, 429–433 (2008).
Lu, Y., Lee, J. H., Yang, X. & Chen, I. W. Distinguishing uniform switching from filamentary switching in resistance memory using a fracture test. Nanoscale 8, 18113–18120 (2016).
Chen, A. B., Choi, B. J., Yang, X. & Chen, I. W. A parallel circuit model for multi-state resistive-switching random access memory. Adv. Funct. Mater. 22, 546–554 (2012).
Yang, X. & Chen, I. W. Dynamic-load-enabled ultra-low power multiple-state RRAM devices. Sci. Rep. 2, 744 (2012).
Lu, Y., Lee, J. H. & Chen, I. W. Scalability of voltage-controlled filamentary and nanometallic resistance memory devices. Nanoscale 9, 12690–12697 (2017).
Lu, Y., Lee, J. H. & Chen, I. W. Nanofilament dynamics in resistance memory: model and validation. ACS Nano 9, 7649–7660 (2015).
Yoon, J. H. et al. Highly improved uniformity in the resistive switching parameters of TiO2 thin films by inserting Ru nanodots. Adv. Mater. 25, 1987–1992 (2013).
Zhuo, V. Y. Q. et al. Improved switching uniformity and low-voltage operation in TaOx-based RRAM using Ge reactive layer. IEEE Electron Device Lett. 34, 1130–1132 (2013).
Fang, Z. et al. HfOx/TiOx/HfOx/TiOx multilayer-based forming-free RRAM devices with excellent uniformity. IEEE Electron Device Lett. 32, 566–568 (2011).
Yu, S. et al. A low energy oxide-based electronic synaptic device for neuromorphic visual systems with tolerance to device variation. Adv. Mater. 25, 1774–1779 (2013).
Ching, W. Y. Theory of amorphous SiO2 and SiOx. I. Atomic structural models. Phys. Rev. B 26, 6610 (1982).
Ching, W. Y. Theory of amorphous SiO2 and SiOx. III. Electronic structures of SiOx. Phys. Rev. B 26, 6633 (1982).
Anderson, P. W. Absence of diffusion in certain random lattices. Phys. Rev. 109, 1492 (1958).
Lee, P. A. & Ramakrishnan, T. V. Disordered electronic systems. Rev. Mod. Phys. 57, 287–337 (1985).
Altshuler, B. L. and Aronov, A. G. in Electron–Electron Interaction in Disordered Systems Vol. 10 (eds Efros, A. L. & Pollak, M.) 1–154 (Elsevier, 2012).
Pierre, F. et al. Dephasing of electrons in mesoscopic metal wires. Phys. Rev. B 68, 085413 (2003).
Kwong, Y. K., Lin, K., Isaacson, M. S. & Parpia, J. M. An attempt to observe phonon dimensionality crossover effects in the inelastic scattering rate of thin free-standing aluminum films. J. Low Temp. Phys. 88, 261–272 (1992).
Golubev, D. S. & Zaikin, A. D. Quantum decoherence in disordered mesoscopic systems. Phys. Rev. Lett. 81, 1074 (1998).
Roukes, M. L., Freeman, M. R., Germain, R. S., Richardson, R. C. & Ketchen, M. B. Hot electrons and energy transport in metals at millikelvin temperatures. Phys. Rev. Lett. 55, 422 (1985).
Peters, R. P. & Bergmann, G. Dependence of the phase-coherence time in weak localization on electronic mean free path and film thickness. J. Phys. Soc. Jpn. 54, 3478–3487 (1985).
van Hapert, J. J. Hopping Conduction and Chemical Structure, a Study on Silicon Suboxides. PhD thesis, Utrecht Univ. (2002).
Lu, Y. & Chen, I. W. Probing material conductivity in two-terminal devices by resistance difference. Appl. Phys. Lett. 111, 083501 (2017).
Mott, N. Electrons in glass. Rev. Mod. Phys. 50, 203 (1978).
This research was supported by the US National Science Foundation Grant No. DMR-1409114 and used the facilities at NHMFL (DMR-1157490, State of Florida) and at FACET (SLAC National Laboratory supported by the US Department of Energy), where the experimental assistance of Drs J.-H. Park (NHMFL), H.-W. Baek (NHMFL) and I. Tudosa (FACET) is gratefully acknowledged.
Y.L., I.-W.C. and University of Pennsylvania have filed for applications on silicon-based and related thin-film memory devices.
Publisher’s note: Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
About this article
Cite this article
Lu, Y., Alvarez, A., Kao, CH. et al. An electronic silicon-based memristor with a high switching uniformity. Nat Electron 2, 66–74 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41928-019-0204-7
Nature Communications (2021)
Nature Electronics (2019)