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Nat Commun. 2012 Mar 13;3:732. doi: 10.1038/ncomms1737.

Observation of conducting filament growth in nanoscale resistive memories.

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Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109, USA.


Nanoscale resistive switching devices, sometimes termed memristors, have recently generated significant interest for memory, logic and neuromorphic applications. Resistive switching effects in dielectric-based devices are normally assumed to be caused by conducting filament formation across the electrodes, but the nature of the filaments and their growth dynamics remain controversial. Here we report direct transmission electron microscopy imaging, and structural and compositional analysis of the nanoscale conducting filaments. Through systematic ex-situ and in-situ transmission electron microscopy studies on devices under different programming conditions, we found that the filament growth can be dominated by cation transport in the dielectric film. Unexpectedly, two different growth modes were observed for the first time in materials with different microstructures. Regardless of the growth direction, the narrowest region of the filament was found to be near the dielectric/inert-electrode interface in these devices, suggesting that this region deserves particular attention for continued device optimization.


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