Phase change materials could lead to advanced computer memory
Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have provided new insight which could help engineers create more efficient memory storage devices. “Universal memory” which combines non-volatility, high switching speeds and large data storage has long been sought after. Phase change materials, or PCMs, are ideal candidates for universal memory. The phases they switch between are different arrangements of their internal atomic structure. They begin in an orderly crystalline phase, however they change into the chaotic amorphous phase. It has been known that the only way to switch between these two states involved heating. The researchers have shown that there is a way to achieve this transition without melting the material. Their advance was made possible by fashioning a PCM into thin nanowires. This enabled the researchers to observe the phase change as it happened using an electron microscope.