Avalanche-Discharge-Induced Electrical Forming in Tantalum Oxide-Based Metal-Insulator-Metal Structures

Katharina Skaja, Christoph Bäumer, Oliver Peters, Stephan Menzel, Marco Moors, Hongchu Du, Manuel Bornhöfft, Christoph Schmitz, Vitaliy Feyer, Chun Lin Jia, Claus Michael Schneider, Joachim Mayer, Rainer Waser, Regina Dittmann*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)


Oxide-based metal-insulator-metal structures are of special interest for future resistive random-access memories. In such cells, redox processes on the nanoscale occur during resistive switching, which are initiated by the reversible movement of native donors, such as oxygen vacancies. The formation of these filaments is mainly attributed to an enhanced oxygen diffusion due to Joule heating in an electric field or due to electrical breakdown. Here, the development of a dendrite-like structure, which is induced by an avalanche discharge between the top electrode and the Ta2O5-x layer, is presented, which occurs instead of a local breakdown between top and bottom electrode. The dendrite-like structure evolves primarily at structures with a pronounced interface adsorbate layer. Furthermore, local conductive atomic force microscopy reveals that the entire dendrite region becomes conductive. Via spectromicroscopy it is demonstrated that the subsequent switching is caused by a valence change between Ta4+ and Ta5+, which takes place over the entire former Pt/Ta2O5-x interface of the dendrite-like structure. It is experimentally demonstrated that a pronounced interface adsorbate layer in Ta2O5-x-based resistive switching devices leads to an avalanche-discharge-induced breakdown instead of a breakdown within a single filament. Moreover, it is explicitly proven that the switching between the low and high resistance state is caused by the reduction/oxidation of Ta2O5-x/TaO2 in the entire former Pt/Ta2O5-x interface of the dendrite-like structure.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7154-7162
Number of pages9
JournalAdvanced functional materials
Issue number46
Publication statusPublished - 9 Dec 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • forming
  • PEEM
  • reduction
  • resistive switching


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