Tomasso Stecconi: PhD at IBM Research – Zurich, Switzerland


Synaptic element for neuromorphic computation exploiting ferroelectric domain walls


Dr. Jean Fompeyrine (IBM Research – Zurich, Switzerland)


Dr. Bernd Gotsmann (IBM Research – Zurich, Switzerland)

Academic Supervisor:

Prof. Dr. Regina Dittmann (Forschungszentrum Jülich GmbH, Germany)

Synaptic element for neuromorphic computation exploiting ferroelectric domain walls

Domain walls in ferroelectrics could offer the possibility to fabricate devices with a gradual and reversible change in their electrical conductance and, thus, be usable as synaptic elements. The demonstration of ferroelectric tunnel junctions that mimic the plasticity of biological synapses, as well as single wall motion in constrained geometries, have shown that ferroelectric domain walls can be used for neuromorphic processing. This PhD project aims to develop and experimentally realize concepts of exploiting ferroelectric domain wall motion for integrated synaptic elements for neuromorphic circuits. These novel ferroelectric devices will be integrated in a CMOS compatible platform. For realizing the project, both a good understanding of the physics of ferroelectric domains and materials science as well as excellent experimental skills are needed. Advanced deposition and materials characterization methods, state-of-the-art cleanroom fabrication of nanoscale devices, as well as cutting-edge electrical characterization techniques will be applied. The main part of the research will be performed at IBM Research – Zurich, Switzerland. Additionally, the ESR will spend the secondments at the Zernike Institute for Advanced Materials, University of Groningen, the Netherlands (1 month) and University of Zurich, Switzerland (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 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 Forschungszentrum Jülich website for more information on the PhD enrolment requirements.

For more details on the project, contact