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Functionality of Oxide based devices under Electric-field: Towards Atomic-resolution Operando Nanoscopy

Project description

A novel lab-on-a-chip investigates oxygen dynamics during operation of metal-oxide devices

Metal oxide-based nanomaterials are widely used in electronic and optoelectronic devices. Tailoring of their surface properties plays an integral role in performance and application. So-called oxygen vacancies, defects that can be natural or man-made, play a crucial role in the physical properties of metal oxides, and engineering defects has been used to enhance their properties. However, characterising and quantifying the effects of vacancies to better engineer them is challenging. The EU-funded FOXON project will harness the power of microelectromechanical systems to enable unprecedented investigation of metal-oxide devices during device operation with atomic-level precision.


Understanding oxygen dynamics is a key to superior device performance in emergent oxide electronics. So far it is an unrealized dream to correlate electrical behavior and atomic structure during device operation. Here, I envision bridging the gap between theoretical models and experimental reality. Recent advances in microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) chips for in situ transmission electron microscopy (TEM) are opening exciting new avenues in nanoscale research. The capability to perform current-voltage measurements while simultaneously analyzing the corresponding structural, chemical or even electronic structure changes during the operation of an electronic device would be a major breakthrough for nanoelectronics. Controlled electric field studies would enable an unprecedented way to investigate metal-oxide functional devices by using a lab-on-a-chip approach. I propose this project based upon own groundbreaking work on (i) how to electrically contact and operate an electron transparent lamella device fabricated from a metal-insulator-metal (MIM) structure (Ultramicroscopy 181 (2017) 144-149) and (ii) the design of a novel MEMS-based chip for in situ electrical biasing. FOXON will provide a platform for atomic scale operando investigations of oxide thin film and interface switching phenomena of MIM devices under electrical bias inside a microscope. My scientific endeavor will establish a group to develop beyond state-of-the-art operando TEM of MIM structured devices and tackle open questions in the field of oxide electronics. My scientific mission incorporates (a) studies of switching processes in oxide devices and (b) a comprehensive understanding of the atomic-level mechanisms that lead to tunable physical properties including dynamics of oxygen vacancies and stability of quantized conductance states in RRAM devices (Adv. Funct. Mater. (2017) 1700432). The results from this ERC Starting Grant could pave the way for novel quantum and information technologies.

Host institution

Net EU contribution
€ 1 758 600,00
64289 Darmstadt

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Hessen Darmstadt Darmstadt, Kreisfreie Stadt
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
€ 1 758 600,00

Beneficiaries (1)