Mechanism of amorphous phase stabilization in ultrathin films of monoatomic phase change material†
Elemental antimony has been recently proposed as a promising material for phase change memories with improved performances with respect to the most used ternary chalcogenide alloys. The compositional simplification prevents reliability problems due to demixing of the alloy during memory operation. This is made possible by the dramatic stabilization of the amorphous phase once Sb is confined in an ultrathin film 3–5 nm thick. In this work, we shed light on the microscopic origin of this effect by means of large scale molecular dynamics simulations based on an interatomic potential generated with a machine learning technique. The simulations suggest that the dramatic reduction of the crystal growth velocity in the film with respect to the bulk is due to the effect of nanoconfinement on the fast β relaxation dynamics while the slow α relaxation is essentially unaffected.
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