We report on the electronic roles in filamentary-type switching of binary oxide-based resistive random access memories using ab initio calculations. We show that charge injection and removal determine the thermodynamic stability of the vacancy filament and the diffusion in the memory devices; electron injection induces the vacancy cohesion that stabilizes the filament, whereas removal of these electrons favors the vacancy isolation that destabilizes the filament; electron removal makes the energy barrier of the vacancy diffusion processes small enough to be overcome by joule heating. The vacancy cohesion-isolation processes are induced by charge injection and removal that leads to occupation of the bonding-like electron states, which can be controlled by shifting the system Fermi level via an applied voltage during memory operation. The vacancy cohesion-isolation phase transition upon charge injection and removal is thus one of the main factors that govern resistive switching. Based on the physics, we propose three-layer stack structures for further improvement of the memory characteristics.
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