PCM memory is programmable by photons and electrons

December 02, 2019 //By Julien Happich
PCM memory
Researchers from the University of Oxford have devised a novel type of nanoscale Phase Change Material (PCM) memory whose states can be programmed with either photons or electrons.

Developed in Harish Bhaskaran's Advanced Nanoscale Engineering research group in collaboration with researchers at the universities of Münster and Exeter, the electro-optical device bridges the fields of optical and electronic computing and could in the future provide an elegant solution to achieving faster and more energy efficient memories and processors.

Publishing their results in Science Advances under the paper title "Plasmonic nanogap enhanced phase-change devices with dual electrical-optical functionality", the researchers explain how they combined waveguide-integrated plasmonic nanogaps with Ge2Sb2Te5 (GST) as a photo- and electro-sensitive phase change material to create an electro-optic memory cell that is fully addressable in both electrical and optical domains.

While electrical chips need to be small to operate efficiently, optical chips usually need to be large as the wavelength of light is larger than that of electrons, making electrical and light-based computing fundamentally incompatible. It is by exploiting both the nanoscale dimensions and strong field confinement of a plasmonic nanogap that this full mixed-mode operation was enabled, switching the amorphous/crystalline states of the PCM within a 50nm gap.

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