Spin orbit torque measurements in Pt-based heavy metal/ferromagnetic heterostructures with in-plane magnetic anisotropy

Abstract : Moore’s law is based on empirical observation and states that every two years approximately, the number of transistors in dense integrated circuits doubles. This trend has held up well in the past several decades (1970s and onwards). However, the continuous miniaturisation of transistors brings about a significant increase in leakage current, which increases the stand-by power consumption. This energy loss has become a major problem in microelectronics during the last several years, making the development of new technologies more difficult. One of the solutions that can address this issue is to place non-volatile memory elements inside the chip, that retain the configuration of the transistor during power-off and allow to restore it at power-on. Magnetic Random Access Memories (MRAM) are considered by the ITRS as a credible candidate for the potential replacement for SRAM and DRAM beyond the 20 nm technological node. Though the basic requirements for reading and writing a single memory element are fulfilled, the present approach based on Spin Transfer Torque (STT) suffers from an innate lack of flexibility. The electric current drives the magnetization switching of a free ferromagnetic layer by transferring angular momentum from an adjacent ferromagnet. Therefore, STT-based memory elements are two terminal devices in which the “pillar” shape defines both the “read” and the “write” current paths. Independent optimisation of the reading and writing parameters is therefore difficult, while the large writing current density injected through the tunnel barrier causes its accelerated ageing, particularly for fast switching. Consequently, the integration of MRAM into semiconductor technology poses significant difficulties.Recent demonstrations of magnetization switching induced by in-plane current injection in heavy metal (HM)/ferromagnet (FM) heterostructures have drawn increasing attention to spin-torques based on orbital-to-spin momentum transfer induced by Spin Hall and interfacial effects (SOTs). Unlike STT-MRAM, the in-plane current injection geometry of SOT-MRAM allows for a three-terminal device which decouples the “read” and “write” mechanisms, allowing the independent tuning of reading and writing parameters. However, an essential first step in order to control and optimise the SOTs for any kind of application, is to better understand their origin. The origin of the SOTs remains one of the most important unanswered questions to date. While some experimental studies suggest a SHE (Spin Hall Effect)-only model for the SOTs, others point towards a combined contribution of the bulk (SHE) and interface (Rashba Effect and Interfacial SHE). At the same time, many studies start with a SHE only hypothesis and do not consider interfacial effects. Furthermore, there are not so many systematic studies on the effects of interfaces. This thesis tries to fill in this gap, by providing a systematic study on the effects of interfaces on the SOTs, in Pt-based NM/FM/HM multilayers with in-plane magnetic anisotropy. For this purpose, this thesis explores three different, but related avenues. First, we changed the interface/bulk effect ratio by modifying the Pt thickness and following the evolution of the SOTs. Second, we explored different HM/FM/NM combinations, in order to study different interfaces. And third, we changed the properties of the interfaces by changing the crystallographic structure of the interface and by oxidation. The measurement technique and associated data analysis method, as well as the theoretical considerations needed for the interpretation of the results are also detailed in this manuscript.
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Alexandru Vladimir Trifu. Spin orbit torque measurements in Pt-based heavy metal/ferromagnetic heterostructures with in-plane magnetic anisotropy. Mesoscopic Systems and Quantum Hall Effect [cond-mat.mes-hall]. Université Grenoble Alpes, 2017. English. ⟨NNT : 2017GREAY044⟩. ⟨tel-01817269⟩

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