Failure of classic equation linking diffusion and viscosity points to new thinking on switch kinetics of phase-change materials.
The dynamic properties of liquid phase-change materials (PCMs), such as viscosity η and the atomic self-diffusion coefficient D, play an essential role in the ultrafast phase switching behavior of novel nonvolatile phase-change memory applications. To connect η to D, the Stokes-Einstein relation (SER) is commonly assumed to be valid at high temperatures near or above the melting temperature T m and is often used for assessing liquid fragility (or crystal growth velocity) of technologically important PCMs. However, using quasi-elastic neutron scattering, we provide experimental evidence for a breakdown of the SER even at temperatures above T m in the high–atomic mobility state of a PCM, Ge 1Sb 2Te 4. This implies that although viscosity may have strongly increased during cooling, diffusivity can remain high owing to early decoupling, being a favorable feature for the fast phase switching behavior of the high-fluidity PCM. We discuss the origin of the observation and propose the possible connection to a metal-semiconductor and fragile-strong transition hidden below T m.