In situ imaging of the conducting filament in a silicon oxide resistive switch
Yao, Jun; Zhong, Lin; Natelson, Douglas; Tour, James M.
The nature of the conducting filaments in many resistive switching systems has been elusive. Throughﾠin situﾠtransmission electron microscopy, we image the real-time formation and evolution of the filament in a silicon oxide resistive switch. The electroforming process is revealed to involve the local enrichment of silicon from the silicon oxide matrix. Semi-metallic silicon nanocrystals with structural variations from the conventional diamond cubic form of silicon are observed, which likely accounts for the conduction in the filament. The growth and shrinkage of the silicon nanocrystals in response to different electrical stimuli show energetically viable transition processes in the silicon forms, offering evidence for the switching mechanism. The study here also provides insights into the electrical breakdown process in silicon oxide layers, which are ubiquitous in a host of electronic devices.