Phase change memory (PCM) is a non-volatile solid-state memory technology based on the large resistivity contrast between the amorphous and crystalline states in phase change materials. We present the physics behind this large resistivity contrast and describe how it is being exploited to create high density PCM. We address the challenges facing this technology, including the design of PCM cells, fabrication, device variability, thermal cross-talk and write disturb. We discuss the scalability, assess the performance, and examine the reliability of PCM including data retention, multi-bit storage and endurance. © Science China Press and Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2011.