PerspectiveMaterials Science

Speeding up crystallization

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Science  15 Dec 2017:
Vol. 358, Issue 6369, pp. 1386
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaq0476

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Phase-change materials (PCMs) form the basis of many modern optical-storage media (such as DVDs) and promise to yield faster, more stable random-access memory (RAM) devices for computers. All of these devices are based on the fast and reversible crystallization of amorphous bits in thin polycrystalline alloy layers, with crystallization being the time-limiting stage. Optimization of the alloy composition for faster crystallization is a major challenge in speeding up this process. On page 1423 of this issue, Rao et al. (1) take full advantage of atomic-level knowledge of the structure and crystallization properties of PCMs from simulations to develop a new alloy with greatly reduced nucleation times and demonstrate subnanosecond crystallization in a PCM device based on this alloy.