- Award ID(s):
- NSF-PAR ID:
- Date Published:
- Journal Name:
- Materials Futures
- Page Range / eLocation ID:
- Medium: X
- Sponsoring Org:
- National Science Foundation
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The emergence of embedded magnetic random-access memory (MRAM) and its integration in mainstream semiconductor manufacturing technology have created an unprecedented opportunity for engineering computing systems with improved performance, energy efficiency, lower cost, and unconventional computing capabilities. While the initial interest in the existing generation of MRAM—which is based on the spin-transfer torque (STT) effect in ferromagnetic tunnel junctions—was driven by its nonvolatile data retention and lower cost of integration compared to embedded Flash (eFlash), the focus of MRAM research and development efforts is increasingly shifting toward alternative write mechanisms (beyond STT) and new materials (beyond ferromagnets) in recent years. This has been driven by the need for better speed vs density and speed vs endurance trade-offs to make MRAM applicable to a wider range of memory markets, as well as to utilize the potential of MRAM in various unconventional computing architectures that utilize the physics of nanoscale magnets. In this Perspective, we offer an overview of spin–orbit torque (SOT) as one of these beyond-STT write mechanisms for the MRAM devices. We discuss, specifically, the progress in developing SOT-MRAM devices with perpendicular magnetization. Starting from basic symmetry considerations, we discuss the requirement for an in-plane bias magnetic field which has hindered progress in developing practical SOT-MRAM devices. We then discuss several approaches based on structural, magnetic, and chiral symmetry-breaking that have been explored to overcome this limitation and realize bias-field-free SOT-MRAM devices with perpendicular magnetization. We also review the corresponding material- and device-level challenges in each case. We then present a perspective of the potential of these devices for computing and security applications beyond their use in the conventional memory hierarchy.more » « less
Switching of perpendicular magnetization via spin–orbit torque (SOT) is of particular interest in the development of non-volatile magnetic random access memory (MRAM) devices. We studied current-induced magnetization switching of Ir/GdFeCo/Cu/Pt heterostructures in a Hall cross geometry as a function of the in-plane applied magnetic field. Remarkably, magnetization switching is observed at zero applied field. This is shown to result from the competition between SOT, the Oersted field generated by the charge current, and the material's coercivity. Our results show a means of achieving zero-field switching that can impact the design of future spintronics devices, such as SOT-MRAM.more » « less
Spin currents are used to write information in magnetic random access memory (MRAM) devices by switching the magnetization direction of one of the ferromagnetic electrodes of a magnetic tunnel junction (MTJ) nanopillar. Different physical mechanisms of conversion of charge current to spin current can be used in two-terminal and three-terminal device geometries. In two-terminal devices, charge-to-spin conversion occurs by spin filtering in the MTJ's ferromagnetic electrodes and present day MRAM devices operate near the theoretically expected maximum charge-to-spin conversion efficiency. In three-terminal devices, spin–orbit interactions in a channel material can also be used to generate large spin currents. In this Perspective article, we discuss charge-to-spin conversion processes that can satisfy the requirements of MRAM technology. We emphasize the need to develop channel materials with larger charge-to-spin conversion efficiency—that can equal or exceed that produced by spin filtering—and spin currents with a spin polarization component perpendicular to the channel interface. This would enable high-performance devices based on sub-20 nm diameter perpendicularly magnetized MTJ nanopillars without need of a symmetry breaking field. We also discuss MRAM characteristics essential for CMOS integration. Finally, we identify critical research needs for charge-to-spin conversion measurements and metrics that can be used to optimize device channel materials and interface properties prior to full MTJ nanopillar device fabrication and characterization.more » « less
Current-induced spin-orbit torques (SOTs) are of interest for fast and energy-efficient manipulation of magnetic order in spintronic devices. To be deterministic, however, switching of perpendicularly magnetized materials by SOT requires a mechanism for in-plane symmetry breaking. Existing methods to do so involve the application of an in-plane bias magnetic field, or incorporation of in-plane structural asymmetry in the device, both of which can be difficult to implement in practical applications. Here, we report bias-field-free SOT switching in a single perpendicular CoTb layer with an engineered vertical composition gradient. The vertical structural inversion asymmetry induces strong intrinsic SOTs and a gradient-driven Dzyaloshinskii–Moriya interaction (g-DMI), which breaks the in-plane symmetry during the switching process. Micromagnetic simulations are in agreement with experimental results, and elucidate the role of g-DMI in the deterministic switching processes. This bias-field-free switching scheme for perpendicular ferrimagnets with g-DMI provides a strategy for efficient and compact SOT device design.
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.