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      Field-free switching of perpendicular magnetization through spin–orbit torque in antiferromagnet/ferromagnet/oxide structures

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          Abstract

          Spin-orbit torques arising from the spin-orbit coupling of non-magnetic heavy metals allow electrical switching of perpendicular magnetization. However, the switching is not purely electrical in laterally homogeneous structures. An extra in-plane magnetic field is indeed required to achieve deterministic switching, and this is detrimental for device applications. On the other hand, if antiferromagnets can generate spin-orbit torques, they may enable all-electrical deterministic switching because the desired magnetic field may be replaced by their exchange bias. Here we report sizeable spin-orbit torques in IrMn/CoFeB/MgO structures. The antiferromagnetic IrMn layer also supplies an in-plane exchange bias field, which enables all-electrical deterministic switching of perpendicular magnetization without any assistance from an external magnetic field. Together with sizeable spin-orbit torques, these features make antiferromagnets a promising candidate for future spintronic devices. We also show that the signs of the spin-orbit torques in various IrMn-based structures cannot be explained by existing theories and thus significant theoretical progress is required.

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          Most cited references 28

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          Spintronics: Fundamentals and applications

          Spintronics, or spin electronics, involves the study of active control and manipulation of spin degrees of freedom in solid-state systems. This article reviews the current status of this subject, including both recent advances and well-established results. The primary focus is on the basic physical principles underlying the generation of carrier spin polarization, spin dynamics, and spin-polarized transport in semiconductors and metals. Spin transport differs from charge transport in that spin is a nonconserved quantity in solids due to spin-orbit and hyperfine coupling. The authors discuss in detail spin decoherence mechanisms in metals and semiconductors. Various theories of spin injection and spin-polarized transport are applied to hybrid structures relevant to spin-based devices and fundamental studies of materials properties. Experimental work is reviewed with the emphasis on projected applications, in which external electric and magnetic fields and illumination by light will be used to control spin and charge dynamics to create new functionalities not feasible or ineffective with conventional electronics.
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            Exchange bias

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              Current-driven dynamics of chiral ferromagnetic domain walls

              In most ferromagnets the magnetization rotates from one domain to the next with no preferred handedness. However, broken inversion symmetry can lift the chiral degeneracy, leading to topologically-rich spin textures such as spin-spirals and skyrmions via the Dzyaloshinskii-Moriya interaction (DMI). Here we show that in ultrathin metallic ferromagnets sandwiched between a heavy metal and an oxide, the DMI stabilizes chiral domain walls (DWs) whose spin texture enables extremely efficient current-driven motion. We show that spin torque from the spin Hall effect drives DWs in opposite directions in Pt/CoFe/MgO and Ta/CoFe/MgO, which can be explained only if the DWs assume a N\'eel configuration with left-handed chirality. We directly confirm the DW chirality and rigidity by examining current-driven DW dynamics with magnetic fields applied perpendicular and parallel to the spin spiral. This work resolves the origin of controversial experimental results and highlights a new path towards interfacial design of spintronic devices.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Nature Nanotechnology
                Nature Nanotech
                Springer Nature
                1748-3387
                1748-3395
                July 11 2016
                July 11 2016
                : 11
                : 10
                : 878-884
                Article
                10.1038/nnano.2016.109
                27428279
                © 2016

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