2D materials for a major leap forward in non-volatile memory technologies
Graphene Flagship researchers at the Catalan Institute of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology (ICN2), Barcelona, have led the publication of Nature review that roadmaps the possibilities of 2D materials in spin-based memory technologies.
Non-volatile memories –which retain stored values even when power is removed— are largely employed in computers, tablets, pen drives and many other electronic devices. Among the various existing technologies, magnetoresistive random-access memories (MRAM), currently used only in specific applications, will expand considerably on the market in the decade to come.
In this context, the Graphene Flagship, in particular our Spintronics Work Package, investigate the potential graphene and other 2D materials for these applications. In fact, their peculiar and remarkable characteristics could provide solutions to current technological challenges and performance limitations that prevent further efficient deployment of MRAMs and can produce a strong impact on the design of next-generation spintronic devices
The newest MRAMs based on spintronic mechanisms –i.e., phenomena related to the spin, which is an intrinsic property of electrons and other particles— can offer faster operations, lower power consumption and long retention time, with potential applications in wearable devices, automotive, and the Internet of Things, among others.
Now, Graphene Flagship researchers at the Catalan Institute of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology (ICN2), Barcelona, have led the publication of Nature review that roadmaps the possibilities of 2D materials in spin-based memory technologies. These efforts count on collaborators from Graphene Flagship partners CNRS, CEA and Thales, France, and imec (Belgium), researchers at the National University of Singapore, as well as industrial partners in Samsung Electronics (South Korea) and Global Foundries (Singapore).
This paper provides an overview of the state-of-the-art of the field and of the challenges currently faced in the development of non-volatile memories in general and, specifically, of those employing spintronic mechanisms such as spin-transfer torque (STT) and spin-orbit torque (SOT). The authors discuss the advantages that the co-integration of 2D materials in these technologies introduces, giving a panoramic of the improvements already achieved as well as a prospect of the many advances that further research can produce, in particular in SOT-RAMs. A possible timeline of progress during the next decade is also traced.
Stephan Roche from ICN2, who is the lead author of the paper and the Graphene Flagship Spintronics Leader, says: “The fundamental properties of 2D materials such as atomically smooth interfaces, reduced material intermixing, crystal symmetries, and proximity effects are the drivers for possible disruptive improvements for spin-based MRAMs. These are emerging as key enabling low-power technologies and are expected to spread over large markets from embedded memories to the Internet of Things.”
Jari Kinaret, Director of the Graphene Flagship, says: “It is impressive to observe the scientific results achieved by the spintronics work package and the technology activities carried out in the Imec environment, together with SMEs (such as Singulus Technologies, Graphenea), which pave the way towards future impact on market applications. There are still challenges to be overcome to fully deploy the potential of 2D materials in real life applications, but the expected industrial and economic benefits are very high.”
Andrea Ferrari, Science and Technology Officer of the Graphene Flagship and Chair of its Management Panel, adds: “Funding efforts made by the European Commission to support the Graphene Flagship activities could position Europe at the lead of innovation spintronic technologies in a decade timescale.”
Yang H, Valenzuela S-O, Chshiev M, Couet S, Dieny B, Dlubak B, Fert A, Garello K, Jamet M, Jeong D-E, Lee K, Lee T, Martin M-B, Sankar-Kar G., Sénéor P, Shin H-J, and Roche S, Two-dimensional Materials Prospects for Non-volatile Spintronic Memories. Nature 2022. DOI: 10.1038/s41586-022-04768-0.