Spin transfer torques and spin dynamics in point contacts and spin-flop tunnel junctions
Sammanfattning: The first part of this thesis is an experimental study of the spin-dependent transport in magnetic point contacts. Nano-contacts are produced micromechanically, by bringing a sharpened non-magnetic (N) tip into contact with a ferromagnetic (F) film. The magnetic and magneto-transport properties of such N/F nanocontacts are studied using transport spectroscopy, spanning the ballistic, diffusive, and thermal transport regimes.Single N/F interfaces can exhibit current driven magnetic excitations, which are often manifest as peaks in the differential resistance of a point contact defining the N/F interface. Our experiments show that such surface magnetization excitations, and thus the single-interface spin torques, are observed for diffusive and thermal transport regimes where the conduction electrons experience strong scattering near the N/F interface, and are absent for purely ballistic contacts. We conclude that the single-interface spin torque effect is due to impurity scattering at N/F interfaces.Single N/F interfaces can also exhibit hysteretic conductivity, which is qualitatively similar to the spin-valve effect found in F/N/F trilayers. Based on our measurements of N/F point contacts in the size range of 1-30 nm, we propose two mechanisms of the observed hysteresis. The first mechanism relies on a non-uniform spin distribution near the contact core and is magnetoelastic in origin. This interpretation is in good agreement with some of our experiments on larger point contacts as well as with a numerical micromagnetic model we have developed, where a stress-induced anisotropy creates a non-uniform, domain-wall-like spin distribution in the contact core. The second mechanism we propose is a surface effect which relies on a difference between the surface and interior spins in the ferromagnet in terms of their exchange and anisotropy properties. The surface spin-valve mechanism is in good agreement with the hysteretic magnetoresistance observed for our smallest contacts (~1 nm) and for contacts to nanometer thin ferromagnetic films. This interpretation means that the surface magnetization can be reduced and weakly coupled to the interior spins in the ferromagnet. We find that this surface spin layer can be affected by both external fields and the spin torque of a transport current. The surface magnetization can even form nano-sized spin vorticies at the interface.The nature of the magnetic excitations induced by by nominally unpolarized currents through single N/F interfaces was probed directly using microwave irradiation. We observed two characteristic high-frequency effects: a resonant stimulation of spin-wave modes by microwaves, and a rectification of off-resonant microwave currents by spin-wave nonlinearities in the point contact conductance. These experiments demonstrate that the effects observed are spin-dynamic in nature.In the second part of the thesis we study the spin-dynamics in spin-flop tunnel junctions used in toggle magnetic random access memory. Current pulses in the range of 100 ps used to excite the magnetic moments of the two coupled Py free layers into an oscillatory state, in both the antiparallel and scissor states of the cell. These oscillations are detected directly by measuring the junction resistance in real time with a 6 GHz measurement bandwidth. The junctions had the shape of an ellipse, with lateral size ranging from 350x420 to 400x560 nm. The optical and acoustical precession modes of the the spin-flop trilayer are observed in experiment, as expected from single-domain model. The experimental spectra contain additional features, which are explained using numerical micromagnetic simulations, as originating from magnetic state transitions between different magnetization states with non-uniform spin distributions.
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