PhD thesis defense: Ultimate scalability of STT MRAM: storage layer with perpendicular shape anisotropy

On Friday 31 Aug, Nicolas PERRISSIN defends his PhD at 14h00 in room M001 of Grenoble INP – Phelma – 3 Parvis Louis Néel – Grenoble.

Keywords: STT MRAM, perpendicular shape anisotropy, Ultimate scalability

Most of the actual STT-MRAM development effort is nowadays focused on out-of-plane magnetized MTJ taking advantage of the perpendicular magnetic anisotropy (PMA) arising at magnetic metal/oxide interface. This interfacial anisotropy allows conciliating large anisotropy required to insure a sufficient retention of the memory together with low switching current density thanks to weak spin-orbit coupling. However this PMA is too weak to insure 10 year retention up to 100°C in sub-20 nm devices. For deeply sub-20 nm nodes, new materials with large bulk PMA and low damping still have to be found. Furthermore, because this PMA is an interfacial effect, it is very sensitive to the structural and chemical properties of the magnetic metal/MgO interfaces contributing to dot to dot variability. To solve these problems in very small feature size STT-MRAM, we propose a totally novel approach: use MTJ stacks in which the storage layer anisotropy is uniquely controlled by its out-of-plane shape anisotropy i.e. by giving the storage layer a cylindrical shape with large enough aspect ratio (thickness/diameter typically > 1). In such structure, for purely magnetostatic reasons, the storage layer magnetization lies out-of-plane. With this approach, the geometry of conventional 2D thin layers is thus replaced by a 3D geometry. This innovative approach had several advantages: (i) it creates a strong and robust source of perpendicular anisotropy, much less sensitive to interfacial defects and thermal fluctuations; (ii) allows the use of well-known materials with mastered growth and low magnetic damping, such as Permalloy in combination with FeCoB at the interface of the MgO tunnel barrier and (iii) yields to an extreme scalability of the memory point, down to the sub-10 nm node, as the same materials can be used at very low nodes.

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