Programmable metallization cell (PMC) technology uses the mechanism of metal ion transport in solid electrolytes and electrochemical redox reactions to form metallic electrodeposits. When a positive bias is applied from anode to cathode, atoms at the anode are oxidized to ions and dissolve in the solid electrolyte. They travel to the cathode under the influence of an electric field, where they are reduced to form electrodeposits. These electrodeposits are filamentary in nature and grow in different patterns. Devices that make use of the principle of filament growth have applications in memory, RF switching, and hardware security.
The solid electrolyte under investigation is tungsten trioxide with copper deposited on top. For a standard PMC, these layers are heated in a convection oven to dope the electrolyte. Once the heating process is completed, electrodes are deposited on top of the electrolyte and biased to grow the filaments. What is investigated is the rate of dendritic growth to applied field on the PMC and the composition of the electrolyte. Also investigated are modified three-terminal PMC capacitance change devices. These devices have a buried sensing electrode that senses the increasing capacitance as the filaments grow and increase the upper electrode area.
The rate of dendritic growth in the tungsten trioxide and copper electrolyte of different chemistries and applied field to the PMC devices is the important parameter. The rate of dendritic growth is related to the change of capacitance. Through sensing the change in capacitance over time the modified PMC device will function as an odometer device that can be attached to chips. The attachment of these devices to chips, help in preventing illegal recycling of old chips by marking those chips as old. This will prevent would-be attackers from inserting modified chips in systems that will enable them to by-pass any software security precautions.