ACS Applied Nano Materials

Optical Properties of Amorphous and Crystalline GeTe Nanoparticle Thin Films: A Phase-Change Material for Tunable Photonics

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Phase-change materials (PCMs), which are well-established in optical and random-access memories, are increasingly studied for emerging topics such as brain-inspired computing and active photonics. These applications take advantage of the pronounced reflectivity and resistivity changes that accompany the structural transition in PCMs from their amorphous to crystalline state. However, PCMs are typically fabricated as thin films via sputtering, which is costly, requires advanced equipment, and limits the sample and device design. Here, we investigate a simpler and more flexible approach for applications in tunable photonics: the use of sub-10 nm colloidal PCM nanoparticles (NPs). We report the optical properties of amorphous and crystalline germanium telluride (GeTe) NP thin films from the infrared to the ultraviolet spectral range. Using spectroscopic ellipsometry with support from cross-sectional scanning electron microscopy, atomic force microscopy, and absorption spectroscopy, we extract refractive indices n, extinction coefficients k, and band gaps Eg and compare these to values known for sputtered GeTe thin films. We find a decrease of n and k and an increase of Eg for NP-based GeTe films, yielding insights into size-dependent property changes for nanoscale PCMs. Furthermore, our results reveal the suitability of GeTe NPs for tunable photonics in the near-infrared and visible spectral range. Thus, PCM NPs are an exciting platform that can allow material properties to be tailored depending on the target application. Finally, we studied sample reproducibility and aging of our NP films. We found that the colloidally prepared PCM thin films were stable for at least 2 months stored under nitrogen, further supporting the great promise of these materials in applications.