Design, fabrication, and characterization of nano-scale cross-point hafnium oxide-based resistive random access memory

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Ellis, Noah
Vogel, Eric M.
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Non-volatile memory (NVM) is a form of computer memory in which the logical value (1 or 0) of a bit is retained when the computer is in its’ powered off state. Flash memory is a major form of NVM found in many computer-based technologies today, from portable solid state drives to numerous types of electronic devices. The popularity of flash memory is due in part to the successful development and commercialization of the floating gate transistor. However, as the floating gate transistor reaches its’ limits of performance and scalability, viable alternatives are being aggressively researched and developed. One such alternative is a memristor-based memory application often referred to as ReRAM or RRAM (Resistive Random Access Memory). A memristor (memory resistor) is a passive circuit element that exhibits programmable resistance when subjected to appropriate current levels. A high resistance state in the memristor corresponds to a logical ‘0’, while the low resistance state corresponds to a logical ‘1’. One memristive system currently being actively investigated is the metal/metal oxide/metal material stack in which the metal layers serve as contact electrodes for the memristor with the metal oxide providing the variable resistance functionality. Application of an appropriate potential difference across the electrodes creates oxygen vacancies throughout the thickness of the metal oxide layer, resulting in the formation of filaments of metal ions which span the metal oxide, allowing for electronic conduction through the stack. Creation and disruption of the filaments correspond to low and high resistance states in the memristor, respectively. For some time now, HfO2 has been researched and developed to serve as a high-k material for use in high performance CMOS MOSFETs. As it happens, HfO2-based RRAM devices have proven themselves as viable candidates for NVM as well, demonstrating high switching speed (< 10 ns), large OFF/ON ratio (> 100), good endurance (> 106 cycles), long lifetime, and multi-bit storage capabilities. HfO2-based RRAM is also highly scalable, having been fabricated in cells as small as 10 x 10 nm2 while still maintaining good performance. Previous work examining switching properties of micron scale HfO2-based RRAM has been performed by the Vogel group. However, a viable process for fabrication of nano-scale RRAM is required in order to continue these studies. In this work, a fabrication process for nano-scale cross-point TiN/ HfO2/TiN RRAM devices will be developed and described. Materials processing challenges will be addressed. The switching performance of devices fabricated by this process will be compared to the performance of similar devices from the literature in order to confirm process viability.
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