skip to main content

This content will become publicly available on December 1, 2022

Title: Spin-neutral currents for spintronics
Abstract Electric currents carrying a net spin polarization are widely used in spintronics, whereas globally spin-neutral currents are expected to play no role in spin-dependent phenomena. Here we show that, in contrast to this common expectation, spin-independent conductance in compensated antiferromagnets and normal metals can be efficiently exploited in spintronics, provided their magnetic space group symmetry supports a non-spin-degenerate Fermi surface. Due to their momentum-dependent spin polarization, such antiferromagnets can be used as active elements in antiferromagnetic tunnel junctions (AFMTJs) and produce a giant tunneling magnetoresistance (TMR) effect. Using RuO 2 as a representative compensated antiferromagnet exhibiting spin-independent conductance along the [001] direction but a non-spin-degenerate Fermi surface, we design a RuO 2 /TiO 2 /RuO 2 (001) AFMTJ, where a globally spin-neutral charge current is controlled by the relative orientation of the Néel vectors of the two RuO 2 electrodes, resulting in the TMR effect as large as ~500%. These results are expanded to normal metals which can be used as a counter electrode in AFMTJs with a single antiferromagnetic layer or other elements in spintronic devices. Our work uncovers an unexplored potential of the materials with no global spin polarization for utilizing them in spintronics.
; ; ; ;
Award ID(s):
Publication Date:
Journal Name:
Nature Communications
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Engineering the electronic band structure of material systems enables the unprecedented exploration of new physical properties that are absent in natural or as-synthetic materials. Half metallicity, an intriguing physical property arising from the metallic nature of electrons with singular spin polarization and insulating for oppositely polarized electrons, holds a great potential for a 100% spin-polarized current for high-efficiency spintronics. Conventionally synthesized thin films hardly sustain half metallicity inherited from their 3D counterparts. A fundamental challenge, in systems of reduced dimensions, is the almost inevitable spin-mixed edge or surface states in proximity to the Fermi level. Here, we predict electric field-induced half metallicity in bilayer A-type antiferromagnetic van der Waals crystals (i.e., intralayer ferromagnetism and interlayer antiferromagnetism), by employing density functional theory calculations on vanadium diselenide. Electric fields lift energy levels of the constituent layers in opposite directions, leading to the gradual closure of the gap of singular spin-polarized states and the opening of the gap of the others. We show that a vertical electrical field is a generic and effective way to achieve half metallicity in A-type antiferromagnetic bilayers and realize the spin field effect transistor. The electric field-induced half metallicity represents an appealing route to realize 2D half metalsmore »and opens opportunities for nanoscale highly efficient antiferromagnetic spintronics for information processing and storage.« less
  2. The theory behind the electrical switching of antiferromagnets is premised on the existence of a well-defined broken symmetry state that can be rotated to encode information. A spin glass is, in many ways, the antithesis of this state, characterized by an ergodic landscape of nearly degenerate magnetic configurations, choosing to freeze into a distribution of these in a manner that is seemingly bereft of information. Here, we show that the coexistence of spin glass and antiferromagnetic order allows a novel mechanism to facilitate the switching of the antiferromagnet Fe 1/3 + δ NbS 2 , rooted in the electrically stimulated collective winding of the spin glass. The local texture of the spin glass opens an anisotropic channel of interaction that can be used to rotate the equilibrium orientation of the antiferromagnetic state. Manipulating antiferromagnetic spin textures using a spin glass’ collective dynamics opens the field of antiferromagnetic spintronics to new material platforms with complex magnetic textures.
  3. Pure spin currents can be generated via thermal excitations of magnons. These magnon spin currents serve as carriers of information in insulating materials, and controlling them using electrical means may enable energy efficient information processing. Here, we demonstrate electric field control of magnon spin currents in the antiferromagnetic insulator Cr 2 O 3 . We show that the thermally driven magnon spin currents reveal a spin-flop transition in thin-film Cr 2 O 3 . Crucially, this spin-flop can be turned on or off by applying an electric field across the thickness of the film. Using this tunability, we demonstrate electric field–induced switching of the polarization of magnon spin currents by varying only a gate voltage while at a fixed magnetic field. We propose a model considering an electric field–dependent spin-flop transition, arising from a change in sublattice magnetizations via a magnetoelectric coupling. These results provide a different approach toward controlling magnon spin current in antiferromagnets.
  4. Abstract The interconversion of charge and spin currents via spin-Hall effect is essential for spintronics. Energy-efficient and deterministic switching of magnetization can be achieved when spin polarizations of these spin currents are collinear with the magnetization. However, symmetry conditions generally restrict spin polarizations to be orthogonal to both the charge and spin flows. Spin polarizations can deviate from such direction in nonmagnetic materials only when the crystalline symmetry is reduced. Here, we show control of the spin polarization direction by using a non-collinear antiferromagnet Mn 3 GaN, in which the triangular spin structure creates a low magnetic symmetry while maintaining a high crystalline symmetry. We demonstrate that epitaxial Mn 3 GaN/permalloy heterostructures can generate unconventional spin-orbit torques at room temperature corresponding to out-of-plane and Dresselhaus-like spin polarizations which are forbidden in any sample with two-fold rotational symmetry. Our results demonstrate an approach based on spin-structure design for controlling spin-orbit torque, enabling high-efficient antiferromagnetic spintronics.
  5. Abstract

    Spin-orbit torques (SOT) enable efficient electrical control of the magnetic state of ferromagnets, ferrimagnets and antiferromagnets. However, the conventional SOT has severe limitation that only in-plane spins accumulate near the surface, whether interpreted as a spin Hall effect (SHE) or as an Edelstein effect. Such a SOT is not suitable for controlling perpendicular magnetization, which would be more beneficial for realizing low-power-consumption memory devices. Here we report the observation of a giant magnetic-field-like SOT in a topological antiferromagnet Mn3Sn, whose direction and size can be tuned by changing the order parameter direction of the antiferromagnet. To understand the magnetic SHE (MSHE)- and the conventional SHE-induced SOTs on an equal footing, we formulate them as interface spin-electric-field responses and analyzed using a macroscopic symmetry analysis and a complementary microscopic quantum kinetic theory. In this framework, the large out-of-plane spin accumulation due to the MSHE has an inter-band origin and is likely to be caused by the large momentum-dependent spin splitting in Mn3Sn. Our work demonstrates the unique potential of antiferromagnetic Weyl semimetals in overcoming the limitations of conventional SOTs and in realizing low-power spintronics devices with new functionalities.