Giant spin Seebeck effect in a non-magnetic material


The spin Seebeck effect is observed when a thermal gradient applied to a spin-polarized material leads to a spatially varying transverse spin current in an adjacent non-spin-polarized material, where it gets converted into a measurable voltage. It has been previously observed with a magnitude of microvolts per kelvin in magnetically ordered materials, ferromagnetic metals1, semiconductors2 and insulators3. Here we describe a signal in a non-magnetic semiconductor (InSb) that has the hallmarks of being produced by the spin Seebeck effect, but is three orders of magnitude larger (millivolts per kelvin). We refer to the phenomenon that produces it as the giant spin Seebeck effect. Quantizing magnetic fields spin-polarize conduction electrons in semiconductors by means of Zeeman splitting, which spin–orbit coupling amplifies by a factor of 25 in InSb. We propose that the giant spin Seebeck effect is mediated by phonon–electron drag, which changes the electrons’ momentum and directly modifies the spin-splitting energy through spin–orbit interactions. Owing to the simultaneously strong phonon–electron drag and spin–orbit coupling in InSb, the magnitude of the giant spin Seebeck voltage is comparable to the largest known classical thermopower values.

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Figure 1: Detection scheme for measurement of the SSE in non-magnetic InSb.
Figure 2: Experimental data on the SSE in InSb.
Figure 3: Classical thermomagnetic properties of InSb.
Figure 4: How phonon–electron drag causes the SSE in InSb through the spin-orbit interaction.


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We thank Y. Kato, H. Adachi, S. Maekawa and D. Stroud for discussions, and K. Wickey for assistance. This work was supported by the NSF CBET-1133589 (data acquisition and interpretation) and by DMR-0820414 (sample preparation). C.M.J. has a fellowship from the DOE GATE Center of Excellence FG26 05NT42616.

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C.M.J., R.C.M. and J.P.H. conceived the study; C.M.J. designed the experiments, prepared the samples with help from E.J.-H., and collected and carried out analysis of the data. R.C.M. and J.P.H. developed the explanation. All authors discussed the results and participated in writing the manuscript.

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Correspondence to J. P. Heremans.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Jaworski, C., Myers, R., Johnston-Halperin, E. et al. Giant spin Seebeck effect in a non-magnetic material. Nature 487, 210–213 (2012).

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