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Nanoscale magnetic skyrmions in metallic films and multilayers: a new twist for spintronics

Abstract

Magnetic skyrmions are chiral quasiparticles that show promise for the transportation and storage of information. On a fundamental level, skyrmions are model systems for topologically protected spin textures and can be considered as the counterpart of topologically protected electronic states, emphasizing the role of topology in the classification of complex states of condensed matter. Recent impressive demonstrations of the control of individual nanometre-scale skyrmions — including their creation, detection, manipulation and deletion — have raised expectations for their use in future spintronic devices, including magnetic memories and logic gates. From a materials perspective, it is remarkable that skyrmions can be stabilized in ultrathin transition metal films, such as iron — one of the most abundant elements on earth — if in contact with materials that exhibit high spin–orbit coupling. At present, research in this field is focused on the development of transition-metal-based magnetic multilayer structures that support skyrmionic states at room temperature and allow for the precise control of skyrmions by spin-polarized currents and external fields.

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Figure 1: 3D vectorial spin map of a periodic nanoskyrmion lattice in a monolayer Fe film.
Figure 2: Individual nanoscale skyrmions observed in Pd/Fe bilayer films.
Figure 3: Stabilization of skyrmions in Fe/Ni bilayer films by interlayer-exchange coupling.
Figure 4: Skyrmions in asymmetric magnetic multilayers.
Figure 5: Controlled creation, detection and deletion of individual nanoscale skyrmions.
Figure 6: Nanoscale skyrmions on the track.
Figure 7: Current-driven skyrmion motion along a magnetic nanowire track.

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Acknowledgements

The author thanks his coworkers and collaborators, M. Bazarnik, K. von Bergmann, G. Bihlmayer, S. Blügel, A. N. Bogdanov, J. Brede, B. Dupé, A. Finco, J. Friedlein, J. Hagemeister, C. Hanneken, S. Heinze, J. Hermenau, P.-J. Hsu, A. A. Khajetoorians, S. Krause, A. Kubetzka, A. O. Leonov, P. Lindner, S. Lounis, M. Menzel, F. Otte, N. Romming, A. Schlenhoff, A. Sonntag, M. Steinbrecher, E. Vedmedenko and J. Wiebe for their contributions and discussions. The author also thanks G. Beach, G. Chen, V. Cros and M. Kläui for providing figures of their work for this review. Financial support from the European Union (FET-Open MAGicSky No. 665095), the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (SFB 668) and the Hamburgische Stiftung für Wissenschaften, Entwicklung und Kultur Helmut und Hannelore Greve is gratefully acknowledged.

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Wiesendanger, R. Nanoscale magnetic skyrmions in metallic films and multilayers: a new twist for spintronics. Nat Rev Mater 1, 16044 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1038/natrevmats.2016.44

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