Spin-transfer-torque effect in ferromagnets and antiferromagnets

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Wei, Zhen

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Spintronics in metallic multilayers, composed of ferromagnetic (F) and non-magnetic (N) metals, grew out of two complementary discoveries. The first, Giant Magnetoresistance (GMR), refers to a change in multilayer resistance when the relative orientation of magnetic moments in adjacent F-layers is altered by an applied magnetic field. The second, Spin-Transfer-Torque (STT), involves a change in the relative orientation of F-layer moments by an electrical current. This novel physical phenomenon offers unprecedented spatial and temporal control over the magnetic state of a ferromagnet and has tremendous potential in a broad range of technologies, including magnetic memory and recording. Because of its small size (<10nm), point contact is a very efficient probe of electrical transport properties in extremely small sample volumes yet inaccessible with other techniques. We have observed the point-contact excitations in magnetic multilayers at room temperature and extended the capabilities of our point-contact technique to include the sensitivity to wavelengths of the current-induced spin waves. Recently MacDonald and coworkers have predicted that similar to ferromagnetic multilayers, the magnetic state of an antiferromagnetic (AFM) system can affect its transport properties and result in antiferromagnetic analogue of giant magnetoresistance (GMR) = AGMR; while high enough electrical current density can affect the magnetic state of the system via spin-transfer-torque effect. We show that a high density dc current injected from a point contact into an exchange-biased spin valve (EBSV) can systematically change the exchange bias, increasing or decreasing it depending on the current direction. This is the first evidence for current-induced effects on magnetic moments in antiferromagnetic (FeMn or IrMn) metals. We searched for AGMR in multilayers containing different combinations of AFM=FeMn and F=CoFe layers. At low currents, no magnetoresistance (MR) was observed in any samples suggesting that no AGMR is present in these samples. In samples containing F-layers, high current densities sometimes produced a small positive MR – largest resistance at high fields. For a given contact resistance, this MR was usually larger for thicker F-layers, and for a given current, it was usually larger for larger contact resistances (smaller contacts). We tentatively attribute this positive MR to suppression at high currents of spin accumulation induced around and within the F-layers.




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