MSE M.Eng. Spotlight: Nitika Thakral
Nitika Thakral is a current M.Eng. student working on her project titled "Switching Mechanisms in Bilayers Memristors for In-MemoryComputing" which is sponsored by Xallent LLC.
With the rise of complex artificial intelligence algorithms and machine learning, the need for data storage is growing. In-memory computing offers data storage in the form of random-access memory (RAM) and processing in parallel, which is more efficient than traditional methods. However, development of memristors is an essential step in order to achieve in-memory computing. Memristors are devices with variable resistance and offer the possibility of non-volatile memory. Despite their potential, their performance is currently limited by the materials that are used to make them. This research focuses on investigation of a bilayer memristor composed of alumina (Al2O3) and titanium dioxide (TiO2). Several studies have shown the remarkable improvement in performance when an Al2O3 layer is added to a unipolar Pt/TiO2/Pt memristor. The aim of this project is to understand the underlying mechanisms behind the device improvement. The expected retention time, SET voltage, and on/off ratio of the device were studied by doing extensive literature review on this topic. The result was compiled in a review describing the details of the mechanism of electron transfer from different resistance states.
How did you decide on your project?
My decision for the project involved various factors. Firstly, I wanted my career to move towards the semiconductor industry, however coming from a very polymer-centric undergrad institution, this was difficult. Thankfully, the MEng program introduced me to various local and global companies that were in the semiconductors industry. Next, I had always wanted to work for a start-up and learn more about the entrepreneurial experience. The MEng project is a great way to try out different working environments and see which one fits the best before committing to it long-term. Finally, I wanted to work in a collaborative environment with other students and employees of the company. Given all of this, I ultimately chose to work with Xallent LLC, a start-up specializing in semiconductor instrumentation based in Ithaca. Working with them allowed me to expand not only my technical skills, but also various soft-skills such as time management, teamwork and communication.
Tell us more about your project:
For my project I worked with Xallent LLC, which is a start-up specializing in semiconductor and thin-film instrumentation. I was researching a nascent technology called memristors for the application of in-memory computing and data storage. In-memory computing offers data storage in the form of random-access memory (RAM) and processing in parallel, which is more efficient than traditional methods. However, development of memristors is an essential step in order to achieve in-memory computing. Memristors are devices with variable resistance and offer the possibility of non-volatile memory. Despite their potential, their performance is currently limited by the materials that are used to make them. In my project, I was looking at novel materials that had the potential to exponentially improve the performance of memristor devices, and help tackle the data storage issues we face in modern times. This project offered me the opportunity to work in state-of-the-art Cornell Nanofabrication Facility (CNF), and expand my marketable skills.
What stands out most about your M.Eng./Cornell experience?
My time at Cornell was filled with growth and self-discovery, and there are multiple reasons for that. First is the mentorship provided by my advisors and career counselors, who were always willing to help me through any situation. Second, my professors who offered great insights about their experiences, and educated me regarding many opportunities I could seek. However, one thing that stands out above all is the cohort of students I was able to meet. Going in I never expected to form such deep connections with other students in my cohort, but now I know I can always count on them for the rest of my career.