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Volume 112, Issue 7, 01 October 2012
Amorphous chalcogenides have been extensively studied over the last half century due to their application in rewritable optical data storage and in non-volatile phase change memory devices. Yet, the nature of the observed non-ohmic conduction in these glasses is still under debate. In this review, we consolidate and expand the current state of knowledge related to dc conduction in these materials. An overview of the pertinent experimental data is followed by a review of the physics of localized states that are peculiar to chalcogenide glasses. We then describe and evaluate twelve relevant transport mechanisms with conductivities that depend exponentially on the electric field. The discussed mechanisms include various forms of Poole-Frenkel ionization, Schottky emission, hopping conduction, field-induced delocalization of tail states, space-charge-limited current, field emission, percolation band conduction, and transport through crystalline inclusions. Most of the candidates provide more or less satisfactory fits of the observed non-linear IV data. Our analysis calls upon additional studies that would enable one to discriminate between the various alternative models.