Computers that could switch on instantly without the time-consuming process of “booting” an operating system is just one of the possibilities, according to a new paper by a team of researchers spanning four universities, two federal laboratories and three corporate labs.*
Almost exactly two years ago, a team led by Joseph Woicik of NIST and several other federal, academic and industrial laboratories combined precision X-ray spectroscopy data from the NIST beamlines at the National Synchrotron Light Source with theoretical calculations to demonstrate that by carefully layering a thin film of strontium titanate onto a pure silicon crystal, they could distort the titanium compound into something it normally wasn’t—a so-called “ferroelectric” compound that might serve as a fast, efficient medium for data storage.** The new paper adds a key experimental and technological demonstration—the ability to write, read, store and erase patterned bits of data in the strontium titanate film.
In contrast to a traditional data storage material, which records data as a pattern of magnetic regions pointing in different directions, a ferroelectric can do the same with tiny regions of polarized electric charges. Ferroelectric memories are used, for example, in “smart cards” for subway systems. Ferroelectric structures that could be built directly onto silicon crystals, the most common materials base for consumer electronics, have been sought for years for a variety of applications, including nonvolatile memory (data that is not lost when power is turned off) and temperature or pressure sensors integrated into silicon-based microelectronics. One of the potentially biggest prizes would be ferroelectric transistors that could retain their logic state (“on” or “off”) without power, which could enable computers that switch on instantly without needing a boot stage.
The breakthrough originated with researcher Hao Li of Motorola, Inc., who succeeded in depositing the metal oxide directly onto silicon with no intervening layer of silicon oxide producing “coherency” between the two crystal structures—the unique matching up perfectly of one atom to the next across the metal-oxide/Si interface. This is a difficult trick both because silicon is highly reactive to oxidation and because the crystal spacing of the two materials does not normally match. Guided by precision X-ray diffraction data from NIST, Li developed a finely controlled method of depositing the strontium titanate in stages, gradually building up layers that were only a few molecules thick. The result, X-ray data showed, was that the silicon atoms literally squeezed the cubic strontium-titanate crystal to make it fit, distorting it into an oblong shape. That distortion creates a structural instability in the film that makes the compound a ferroelectric.
While theoretical calculations and spectroscopic data demonstrated that the distorted crystal behaved like a ferroelectric, proof of the ferroelectric functionality waited on the new work led by Cornell University professor Darrell Schlom, whose team used a technique called piezoresponse force microscopy to write, read and erase polarized domains in the strontium titanate film.
Researchers from Cornell, the University of Pittsburgh, NIST, Pennsylvania State University, Northwestern University, Motorola, the Energy Department’s Ames Laboratory, Intel Corporation, and Tricorn Tech contributed to the latest paper. X-ray diffraction data were taken at the Advanced Photon Source, Argonne National Laboratory. The research was funded in part by the Office of Naval Research and the National Science Foundation.
* M.P. Warusawithana, C. Cen, C.R. Sleasman, J.C. Woicik, Y. Li, L.F. Kourkoutis, J.A. Klug, H. Li, P. Ryan, L.-P. Wang, M. Bedzyk, D.A. Muller, L.-Q. Chen, J. Levy and D.G. Schlom. A ferroelectric oxide made directly on silicon. Science V 324 17 April 17, 2009. DOI: 10.1126/science.1169678.
** J.C. Woicik, E.L. Shirley, C.S. Hellberg, K.E. Andersen, S. Sambasivan, D.A. Fischer, B.D. Chapman, E.A. Stern, P. Ryan, D.L. Ederer and H. Li. Ferroelectric distortion in SrTiO3 thin films on Si (001) by x-ray absorption fine structure spectroscopy: Experiment and first-principles calculations. Physical Review B 75, Rapid Communications, 140103 April 24, 2007. DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevB.75.140103.
Michael Baum | Newswise Science News
Spider silk key to new bone-fixing composite
20.04.2018 | University of Connecticut
Diamond-like carbon is formed differently to what was believed -- machine learning enables development of new model
19.04.2018 | Aalto University
University of Connecticut researchers have created a biodegradable composite made of silk fibers that can be used to repair broken load-bearing bones without the complications sometimes presented by other materials.
Repairing major load-bearing bones such as those in the leg can be a long and uncomfortable process.
Study published in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces is the outcome of an international effort that included teams from Dresden and Berlin in Germany, and the US.
Scientists at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) together with colleagues from the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB) and the University of Virginia...
Novel highly efficient and brilliant gamma-ray source: Based on model calculations, physicists of the Max PIanck Institute for Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg propose a novel method for an efficient high-brilliance gamma-ray source. A giant collimated gamma-ray pulse is generated from the interaction of a dense ultra-relativistic electron beam with a thin solid conductor. Energetic gamma-rays are copiously produced as the electron beam splits into filaments while propagating across the conductor. The resulting gamma-ray energy and flux enable novel experiments in nuclear and fundamental physics.
The typical wavelength of light interacting with an object of the microcosm scales with the size of this object. For atoms, this ranges from visible light to...
Stable joint cartilage can be produced from adult stem cells originating from bone marrow. This is made possible by inducing specific molecular processes occurring during embryonic cartilage formation, as researchers from the University and University Hospital of Basel report in the scientific journal PNAS.
Certain mesenchymal stem/stromal cells from the bone marrow of adults are considered extremely promising for skeletal tissue regeneration. These adult stem...
In the fight against cancer, scientists are developing new drugs to hit tumor cells at so far unused weak points. Such a “sore spot” is the protein complex...
13.04.2018 | Event News
12.04.2018 | Event News
09.04.2018 | Event News
20.04.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
20.04.2018 | Interdisciplinary Research
20.04.2018 | Physics and Astronomy