Nature Materials

Monatomic phase change memory

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Phase change memory has been developed into a mature technology capable of storing information in a fast and non-volatile way1–3, with potential for neuromorphic computing applications4–6. However, its future impact in electronics depends crucially on how the materials at the core of this technology adapt to the requirements arising from continued scaling towards higher device densities. A common strategy to fine-tune the properties of phase change memory materials, reaching reasonable thermal stability in optical data storage, relies on mixing precise amounts of different dopants, resulting often in quaternary or even more complicated compounds6–8. Here we show how the simplest material imaginable, a single element (in this case, antimony), can become a valid alternative when confined in extremely small volumes. This compositional simplification eliminates problems related to unwanted deviations from the optimized stoichiometry in the switching volume, which become increasingly pressing when devices are aggressively miniaturized9,10. Removing compositional optimization issues may allow one to capitalize on nanosize effects in information storage.