Researchers from IBM and a German university have come up with a new way of creating phase change memory which should be far more effective than the current process.  Current PCMs are made from a complex alloy of materials in order to limit the amount of energy required to flip their state to ensure temperatures do not build up, which leads to a scalabilty issue.  As memory cells shrink, the purity of the alloy needs to be improved as even a single wandering atom could render the cell unusable.  These researchers have created PCM cells between 3 and 10 nm thick using pure antimony separated by SiO2 layers of insulation that are 40-200-nm thick which can change state in a mere 50 nanoseconds.

There is still a long way to go, the process they used creates a form of antimony which remains stable for 51 hours, at a temperature of 20C which is not quite good enough for prime time but could lead to usable materials in the future.  Drop by physicsworld for more coverage.

"Monatomic glassy antimony might be used as a new type of single-element phase change memory. This is the new finding from researchers at IBM Research-Zurich and RWTH Aachen University who say that their approach avoids the problem of local compositional variations in conventional multi-element PCMs. This problem becomes ever more important as devices get smaller."

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