Using in situ electron diffraction techniques, we demonstrate that femtosecond optical excitation above a threshold fluence of the amorphous, as-deposited, phase change material Ge2Sb2Te5 creates large, 100 μm scale single crystals. This is 2 orders of magnitude larger than previously reported grains synthesized via photoexcitation. Transmission electron microscopy shows that these large crystals are dewetted regions with a face-centered cubic structure. Energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy indicates that the crystals have the same composition as the initial amorphous phase. We present a theoretical model which shows that this arises from a crossover from a nucleation-dominated crystallization regime to a growth-dominated crystallization regime, and we show that the measured grain size is consistent with Johnson-Mehl-Avrami-Kolmogorov (JMAK) crystallization theory for temperatures near the melting temperature. The ability to grow macroscopic single crystals from an amorphous material, and on arbitrary amorphous substrates, opens up a large area of potential applications, as well as new opportunities for tuning the nucleation, growth, and switching characteristics of phase-change materials.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Materials Science(all)
- Condensed Matter Physics