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Electric-field control of spin–orbit torque in a magnetically doped topological insulator

Abstract

Electric-field manipulation of magnetic order has proved of both fundamental and technological importance in spintronic devices. So far, electric-field control of ferromagnetism, magnetization and magnetic anisotropy has been explored in various magnetic materials, but the efficient electric-field control of spin–orbit torque (SOT) still remains elusive. Here, we report the effective electric-field control of a giant SOT in a Cr-doped topological insulator (TI) thin film using a top-gate field-effect transistor structure. The SOT strength can be modulated by a factor of four within the accessible gate voltage range, and it shows strong correlation with the spin-polarized surface current in the film. Furthermore, we demonstrate the magnetization switching by scanning gate voltage with constant current and in-plane magnetic field applied in the film. The effective electric-field control of SOT and the giant spin-torque efficiency in Cr-doped TI may lead to the development of energy-efficient gate-controlled spin-torque devices compatible with modern field-effect semiconductor technologies.

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Figure 1: Current-induced magnetization switching and second harmonic measurements in the Al2O3(20 nm)/Cr-TI(7 nm)/GaAs(substrate) structure device.
Figure 2: Top-gate Hall bar configuration and gate electric-field effect on material properties in the Au(electrode)/Al2O3(20 nm)/Cr-TI(7 nm)/GaAs(substrate) structure device.
Figure 3: Second harmonic measurements under different gate voltages and voltage-induced magnetization switching behaviours.
Figure 4: Correlations between the surface carrier densities, surface currents, surface band structures and the measured electric-field control of SOT in the top-gate Hall bar device.

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Acknowledgements

The material growth and characterizations were supported by the DARPA Meso program under contract No.N66001-12-1-4034 and N66001-11-1-4105. The device fabrication and low temperature measurements were supported as part of the Spins and Heat in Nanoscale Electronic Systems (SHINES), an Energy Frontier Research Center funded by the US Department of Energy (DOE), Office of Science, Basic Energy Sciences (BES), under Award # DE-SC0012670. The analysis and theoretical modelling were supported by the US Army Research Office under grants W911NF-14-1-0607 and W911NF-15-1-0561. We are also very grateful to the support from the FAME Center, one of six centers of STARnet, a Semiconductor Research Corporation program sponsored by MARCO and DARPA. Y.W. thanks the support of the National 973 Program of China (2013CB934600), National Science Foundation of China (11174244, 51390474) and Zhejiang Provincial Natural Science Foundation of China (LR12A04002).

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Y.F., X.K., P.U. and K.L.W. conceived and designed the research. X.K. and L.P. grew the material. M.L. and X.C. fabricated the Hall bar devices. Y.F. and Q.S. performed the measurements. X.K., P.U., L.P., M.L., X.C., J.T., M.M., K.M., L-T.C., M.A., G.Y., T.N. and K.W. contributed to the measurements and analysis. J.L. and Y.W. performed structural analysis. Y.F., P.U. and Y.T. designed the theoretical model. Y.F., X.K., P.U. and K.L.W. wrote the paper with the help from all of the other co-authors.

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Correspondence to Yabin Fan or Kang L. Wang.

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Fan, Y., Kou, X., Upadhyaya, P. et al. Electric-field control of spin–orbit torque in a magnetically doped topological insulator. Nature Nanotech 11, 352–359 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1038/nnano.2015.294

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