Reconfigurable electronics based on metal-insulator transition: steep-slope switches and high frequency functions enabled by Vanadium Dioxide

The vast majority of disruptive innovations in science and technology has been originated from the discovery of a new material or the way its properties have been exploited to create novel devices and systems. New advanced nanomaterials will have a lasting impact over the next decades, providing breakthroughs in all scientific domains addressing the main challenges faced by the world today, including energy efficiency, sustainability, climate and health. The electronics industry relied over the last decades on the miniaturization process based on the scaling laws of complementary metal-oxide semiconductors (CMOS). As this process is approaching fundamental limitations, new materials or physical principles must be exploited to replace or supplement CMOS technology. The aim of the work in this thesis is to propose the abrupt metal-insulator transition in functional oxides as a physical phenomenon enabling new classes of Beyond CMOS devices. In order to provide an experimental validation of the proposed designs, vanadium dioxide (VO2) has been selected among functional oxides exhibiting a metal-insulator transition, due to the possibility to operate at room temperature and the high contrast between the electrical properties of its two structural phases. A CMOS-compatible sputtering process for uniform large scale deposition of stoichiometric polycrystalline VO2 has been optimized, enabling high yield and low variability for the devices presented in the rest of the thesis. The high quality of the film has been confirmed by several electrical and structural characterization techniques. The first class of devices based on the MIT in VO2 presented in this work is the steep-slope electronic switch. A quantitative study of the slope of the electrically induced MIT (E-MIT) in 2-terminal VO2 switches is reported, including its dependence on temperature. Moreover, the switches present excellent ON-state conduction independently of temperature, suggesting MIT VO2 switches as promising candidates for steep-slope, highly conductive, temperature stable electronic switches. A novel design for the shape of the electrodes used in VO2 switches has been proposed, targeting a reduction in the actuation voltage necessary to induce the E-MIT. The electrothermal simulations addressing this effect have been validated by measurements. The potential of the MIT in VO2 for reconfigurable electronics in the microwave frequency range has been expressed by the design, fabrication and characterization of low-loss, highly reliable, broadband VO2 radio-frequency (RF) switches, novel VO2 tunable capacitors and RF tunable filters. The newly proposed tunable capacitors overcome the frequency limitations of conventional VO2 RF switches, enabling filters working at a higher frequency range than the current state-of-the-art. An alternative actuation method for the tunable capacitors has been proposed by integrating microheaters for local heating of the VO2 region, and the design tradeoffs have been discussed by coupled electrothermal and electromagnetic simulations. The last device presented in this work operates in the terahertz (THz) range; the MIT in VO2 has been exploited to demonstrate for the first time the operation of a modulated scatterer (MST) working at THz frequencies. The proposed MST is the first THz device whose working principle is based on the actuation of a single VO2 junction, in contrast to commonly employed VO2 metasurfaces.

Related material