Different from the prototypical elemental semiconductors such as Si and Ge, chalcogenide-based phase-change materials (PCMs) generally show very high resistivity contrast between the amorphous and crystalline phases. In contrast to conventional PCMs, such as Ge-Sb-Te alloys, where the amorphous phase possesses higher resistivity, Cr2Ge2Te6 (CrGT) exhibits the opposite dependence. Namely, the amorphous phase is characterized by a lower resistivity than the crystalline phase. Although density functional theory calculations suggest that Cr clusters are responsible for the low resistivity of amorphous CrGT, the effects of composition on the electrical properties have yet to be investigated. In this work, the dependence of the electrical properties on Cr content and the role of the Cr clusters were investigated experimentally using Hall effect, hard x-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (HAXPES), and optical property measurements. The electrical properties were found to be dependent on the Cr content. From a HAXPES core-level spectra analysis, it was found that the increased carrier density correlated with the extent of Cr clusters, indicating that the hole carriers present likely originated from Cr clusters. The increased concentration of Cr clusters was also found to lead to a shift of the valence band edge toward the Fermi level as well as to a decrease in the optical band gap. It has been suggested that the Cr clusters may induce the formation of new energy states close to the valence band edge. These results indicate that the Cr clusters play an essential role in determining the electrical properties of amorphous CrGT, and that tuning the film composition is an effective way to optimize device properties for nonvolatile memory applications.
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