Nanoparticles (NPs) embedded in a conductive or insulating matrix play a key role in memristors and in flash memory devices. However, the role of proximity to the interface of isolated NPs has never been directly observed nor fully understood. Here we show that a reversible local switching in tunnel conductivity can be achieved by applying an appropriate voltage pulse using the tip of a scanning tunnelling microscope on NPs embedded in a TiO2 matrix. The resistive switching occurs in the TiO2 matrix in correlation to the NPs that are in proximity of the surface and it is spatially confined to the single NP size. The tunnel conductivity is increased by more than one order of magnitude. The results are rationalized by a model that include the charge of NPs that work as a nano floating gate inducing local band bending that facilitates charge tunnelling and by the formation and redistribution of oxygen vacancies that concentrate in proximity of the charged NPs. Our study demonstrates the switching in tunnel conductivity in single NP and provides useful information for the understanding mechanism or resistive switching.
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