Tunnel magnetoresistance in scandium nitride magnetic tunnel junctions using first principles
The magnetic tunnel junction is a cornerstone of spintronic devices and circuits, providing the main way to convert between magnetic and electrical information. In state-of-the-art magnetic tunnel junctions, magnesium oxide is used as the tunnel barrier between magnetic electrodes, providing a uniquely large tunnel magnetoresistance at room temperature. However, the wide bandgap and band alignment of magnesium oxide-iron systems increases the resistance-area product and causes challenges of device-to-device variability and tunnel barrier degradation under high current. Here, we study using first principles narrower-bandgap scandium nitride tunneling properties and transport in magnetic tunnel junctions in comparison to magnesium oxide. These simulations demonstrate a high tunnel magnetoresistance in Fe/ScN/Fe MTJs via Δ1 and Δ2′ symmetry filtering with low wavefunction decay rates, allowing a low resistance-area product. The results show that scandium nitride could be a new tunnel barrier material for magnetic tunnel junction devices to overcome variability and current-injection challenges.