Highly repeatable nanoscale phase coexistence in vanadium dioxide films

T. J. Huffman, D. J. Lahneman, S. L. Wang, T. Slusar, B.-J. Kim, H.-T. Kim and M. M. Qazilbash

Phys. Rev. B 97, 085146 (2018)
t is generally believed that in first-order phase transitions in materials with imperfections, the formation of phase domains must be affected to some extent by stochastic (probabilistic) processes. The stochasticity would lead to unreliable performance in nanoscale devices that have the potential to exploit the transformation of physical properties in a phase transition. Here we show that stochasticity at nanometer length scales is completely suppressed in the thermally driven metal-insulator transition (MIT) in sputtered vanadium dioxide (VO2) films. The nucleation and growth of domain patterns of metallic and insulating phases occur in a strikingly reproducible way. The completely deterministic nature of domain formation and growth in films with imperfections is a fundamental and unexpected finding about the kinetics of this material. Moreover, it opens the door for realizing reliable nanoscale devices based on the MIT in VO2 and similar phase-change materials.