Nele Harnack: PhD at IBM Research – Zurich, Switzerland


Thermal Analysis of Devices for Neuromorphic Computing


Dr. Siegfried Karg (IBM Research – Zurich, Switzerland)

Academic Supervisor:

Prof. dr. Beatriz Noheda (University of Groningen, The Netherlands)

Thermal Analysis of Devices for Neuromorphic Computing

Candidate devices for neuromorphic computing act as artificial neurons or synapses and base their function on memristive or nonlinear electrical properties. The switching capability is oftentimes triggered through complex self-heating mechanisms. The project will study such effects in demonstrator devices and small circuits based on relaxation oscillators fabricated from materials with a metal-insulator transition and phase change memory cells. Expected tasks comprise device fabrication in IBM’s Binnig & Rohrer nanotechnology center as well as material and device characterization with state-of-the-art metrology techniques such as electronic and thermal transport tools, thermal scanning probe microscopy and surface chemical analysis. Moreover, modeling and testing of the neuromorphic circuits up to simple image recognition operations should be performed in the course of the project. The main part of the research will be performed at IBM Research – Zurich. Additionally, the ESR will spend the secondments at the Zernike Institute for Advanced Materials, University of Groningen, the Netherlands (1 month) and the Department of Earth Sciences at the University Cambridge, United Kingdom (1 month).

IBM Research – Zurich is the European branch of the IBM Research Division. It has made major contributions to the advancement of knowledge in material science, nanoscience and nanoscale physics stimulated by problems relevant to technology. Research in the Science & Technology department is concentrated in the fields of neuromorphic and quantum computing, nano­technology and future emerging devices, smart systems and materials science. IBM Research – Zurich is the first industrial research lab, which received the Historic Site Award of the European Physical Society for its contributions to physics including the Nobel prizes of 1986 and 1987, and the Kavli prize in nanoscience in 2016. The Binnig-and-Rohrer Nanotechnology Center (BRNC) at IBM Research – Zurich, provides a 1000m2state-of-the-art infrastructure for semiconductor device processing with up to 200mm capability for fabrication and analysis. Extensive electrical measurement capabilities for device characterization such as low-level current and low-temperature measurements and frequency-dependent characterization are available in a specially shielded environment (“noise-free labs”).

Additional information for applicants

  • We look for a candidate with a master/bachelor degree in Physics, Materials Science and/or Chemistry, or a combination thereof.
  • Local application requirements apply:
    • There will be a local evaluation at IBM Research -Zurich.
    • The actual employment at IBM Research -Zurich is bounded to the delivery of a work permit by the Swiss authorities (for non Swiss applicants).
    • Please visit the RUG website for more information on the PhD enrolment requirements.

For more details on the project, contact