A Review on Dielectric Breakdown in Thin Dielectrics: Silicon Dioxide, High-k, and Layered Dielectrics

Felix Palumbo*, Chao Wen, Salvatore Lombardo, Sebastian Pazos, Fernando Aguirre, Moshe Eizenberg, Fei Hui, Mario Lanza

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

126 Scopus citations


Thin dielectric films are essential components of most micro- and nanoelectronic devices, and they have played a key role in the huge development that the semiconductor industry has experienced during the last 50 years. Guaranteeing the reliability of thin dielectric films has become more challenging, in light of strong demand from the market for improved performance in electronic devices. The degradation and breakdown of thin dielectrics under normal device operation has an enormous technological importance and thus it is widely investigated in traditional dielectrics (e.g., SiO2, HfO2, and Al2O3), and it should be further investigated in novel dielectric materials that might be used in future devices (e.g., layered dielectrics). Understanding not only the physical phenomena behind dielectric breakdown but also its statistics is crucial to ensure the reliability of modern and future electronic devices, and it can also be cleverly used for other applications, such as the fabrication of new-concept resistive switching devices (e.g., nonvolatile memories and electronic synapses). Here, the fundamentals of the dielectric breakdown phenomenon in traditional and future thin dielectrics are revised. The physical phenomena that trigger the onset, structural damage, breakdown statistics, device reliability, technological implications, and perspectives are described.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1900657
JournalAdvanced Functional Materials
Issue number18
StatePublished - 1 May 2020


  • SiO
  • dielectric breakdown
  • high-k dielectrics
  • layered insulators
  • reliability


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