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In addition to their wide-spread application in the re-writable optical memory markets, phase-change memory alloys are also poised to take a prominent role in future non-volatile memory applications due to their potential for low-energy usage and indefinite cyclability compared with their silicon-based flash memory counterparts. In contrast with their widespread use, however, the details of the crystalline to amorphous switching process utilized for memory storage remain an active research topic with many details still lacking. Considering the conflicting requirements for high-speed switching, yet long term data storage integrity, a deeper understanding of these materials is essential for insightful application development. We have used x-ray absorption fine structure spectroscopy (XAFS), a technique equally suitable for amorphous and crystalline phases to elaborate details in structural changes in the phase-change process for a variety of phase-change alloys in static measurements. As the kinetics of the switching process are the linchpin for optimizing switching characteristics, we have recently initialted dynamic measurements of light -induced structural changes in Ge-Sb-Te (GST) alloys. These measurements have been carried out synchronously using both femtosecond and nanosecond laser pump pulses in conjunction with 100~ps x-ray pulses generated by an electron storage ring. By synchronously triggering the laser with a variable sub-nanosecond delay, we have been able to use XAFS to probe details of the dynamics of the switching process. Preliminary results learned from this approach applied to GST alloys are presented.
We have used Coherent Bragg Rod Analysis (COBRA) to investigate the atomic structure of a 5.6 nm thick Gd2O3 film epitaxially grown on a (100) GaAs substrate. COBRA is a method to directly obtain the structure of systems periodic in two-dimensions by determining the complex scattering factors along the substrate Bragg rods. The system electron density and atomic structure are obtained by Fourier transforming the complex scattering factors into real space. The results show that the stacking order of the first seven Gd2O3 film layers resembles the stacking order of Ga and As layers in GaAs then changes to the stacking order of cubic bulk Gd2O3. This behavior is distinctly different from the measured stacking order in a 2.7 nm thick Gd2O3 in which the GaAs stacking order persists throughout the entire film.
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