Ed’s Threads 080505Musings by Ed Korczynski on May 5, 2008
When is a Memristor a ReRAM?
HP published that they are the first
to have fabricated a novel circuit element first predicted in 1971 called the “memristor.
” The HP authors claim that, “until now no one has presented either a useful physical model or an example of a memristor.” HP is certainly leading the world, but as one of many companies working on this technology for resistance-change random-access memory (ReRAM) applications. This spring’s Materials Research Society meeting featured an afternoon session on ReRAM
with presentations by HP as well as Fujitsu, FZ Jülich, IMEC, Panasonic, and Samsung.
Antique circuit theories are rarely invoked at MRS meetings, so the focus of the ReRAM session was all about how you engineer complex atomic-layer oxide elements. Another sub-session covered organic switching elements for printable ultra-dense memories in the far future. In other memory technology, the usual suspects are still doing the same tap-dances about FeRAM and MRAM, but PRAM seems to have new momentum
due to investments by Intel and ST in Numonyx
and so may take over some of the mainstream.
Robert Muller of IMEC presented fundamentals of ReRAM cells based on Cu+ and Ag+ charge-transfer complexes for memory applications. Using Ag/CuTCNQ/Al structures, Cu+TCNQ- is a solid ionic conductor, and so a potential can reduce alumina to aluminum along with a corresponding oxidation of the “noble” metal on the other side. The main resistance change is expected as an interfacial effect within a few nm gap between the solid ionic conductor and the aluminum electrode, where Cu filaments form as conductors. IMEC has seen retention time of up to 60 hours so far, but theoretically this can be much higher. The integration problem is that TCNQ begins to degrade at 200°C, so another material may be needed for dense IC memories.
Z. Wei et al. of Panasonic talked about FeOx ReRAM, as first presented by S. Muraoka et al. at IEDM 2007. Fe3O4 reduces to higher-resistance Fe2O3. Both bipolar and unipolar transitions are possible, however, the bipolar high-resistance state (HRS) degrades in only ~100 hours at 85°C, while the unipolar transition retains high resistance to >1000 hours. Interestingly, the low-resistance state (LRS) of the unipolar mode shows metallic (instead of semiconducting) dependence of resistivity to temperature. Both fast switching and long retention may be achieved by combining bipolar (<100ns>1000 hours @85°C) modes.
Herbert Schroeder et al. of Jülich Forshlungszentrum (“FZ Jülich”) showed a simple stack geometry using 100nm thick Pt top and bottom electrodes with a central TiO2 layer 27-250nm thick. As produced, Pt/TiO2/Pt is insulating (in the MΩ to GΩ range) so that “electroforming” is needed. Up to 30mA is needed for the reset current with simple unipolar stacks, though HRS/LRS is ~1000 which is excellent and has been shown with read-out voltages of 0.3V over up to 80 cycles. Bipolar switching has a HRS/LRS of only ~5, but the reset current is merely 1mA and so applicable to real-world circuits. Room-temperature reactive sputtering of Ti results in polycrystalline TiO2 with columnar grains of 5-20nm dia. The possible mechanism of “forming” is the electro-reduction of TiO2 into TiO or Ti which creates oxygen ions to drift to the anode and appear as voids.
H. Kawano et al. of Fujitsu Labs (along with the Nagoya Institute of Technology) explained some of the inherent trade-offs in device properties depending upon the top electrode used with Pr0.7Ca0.3MnO3 bipolar switching material. The mechanism for bipolar switching is more complex and the switching speed strongly depends on the electrode material; using Ag or Au as the top electrode results in 100-150ns, while an easily oxidized metal such as Al or Ti results in ~1ms. Ta forms a thinner oxide which allows 100ns switching with HRS:LRS of 10 at 7V, and this ratio was maintained up to 10,000 cycles. With Pt as both electrodes they saw no ReRAM effects.
Julien Borghetti of HP Information and Quantum System Lab (IQSL) said that they use a TiO2 target to sputter ~30nm TiOx and after a forming step the HRS:LRS ratio is 1000-10,000 for bipolar switching. After formation, the HRS shows essentially no temperature dependence on the conduction, which implies that tunneling current must be responsible for the conduction. From IV curves at different temperatures and biases, it seems that most of the TiOx has parallel degenerate or metallic states which account for ~200Ω resistance which is present in both the HRS and LRS. Then there is a tunneling gap which accounts for the difference between the two states, and it seems to be <3 nm thick and consists of some defects which assist in the tunneling. Cryogenic tests down to 3°K show resonant tunneling through a degenerate gas of electrons.
More details on the HP ReRAM manufacturing process can be found in my recent SST article, “Imprint litho forms arrays for new fault-tolerant nanoscale circuits”
(Solid State Technology, April 2008) which summarizes the main information the company has presented at IEDM, SPIE, and MRS conferences in the last half-year. HP has shown how cross-bar circuits built with ReRAM switches can function both as interconnects and as logic elements. The titania/platinum materials set which can provide reversible ReRAM is not ready for production, but alumina/aluminum is ready to go and can provide irreversible effects. HP Corvalis in Oregon, with its old subtractive Al metal fab, has all the processing capability needed to integrate alumina/aluminum ReRAM with traditional CMOS circuitry for FPGA applications.
Does calling the fundamental switching element in a ReRAM a “memristor” make it switch any faster or retain a state any longer? HP’s labs and fabs do great work and deserve recognition, but unless HP plans to use memristors as novel circuit elements it’s confusing to use the term for ReRAM memory arrays. One blogging circuit designer has already imaged the possibility of building large-scale analog neural networks out of memristor arrays
. Now that we’ve discovered that our ReRAMs could be memristors, the next question is: what do we do with them?
Labels: FRAM, memory, memristor, MRAM, MRS, PRAM, ReRAM, semiconductor
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080505: When is a Memristor a ReRAM?