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  1. Abstract

    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.

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  2. 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. 
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  3. Abstract There is accelerating interest in developing memory devices using antiferromagnetic (AFM) materials, motivated by the possibility for electrically controlling AFM order via spin-orbit torques, and its read-out via magnetoresistive effects. Recent studies have shown, however, that high current densities create non-magnetic contributions to resistive switching signals in AFM/heavy metal (AFM/HM) bilayers, complicating their interpretation. Here we introduce an experimental protocol to unambiguously distinguish current-induced magnetic and nonmagnetic switching signals in AFM/HM structures, and demonstrate it in IrMn 3 /Pt devices. A six-terminal double-cross device is constructed, with an IrMn 3 pillar placed on one cross. The differential voltage is measured between the two crosses with and without IrMn 3 after each switching attempt. For a wide range of current densities, reversible switching is observed only when write currents pass through the cross with the IrMn 3 pillar, eliminating any possibility of non-magnetic switching artifacts. Micromagnetic simulations support our findings, indicating a complex domain-mediated switching process. 
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  4. null (Ed.)