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Significant Dzyaloshinskii–Moriya interaction at graphene–ferromagnet interfaces due to the Rashba effect

Abstract

The possibility of utilizing the rich spin-dependent properties of graphene has attracted much attention in the pursuit of spintronics advances. The promise of high-speed and low-energy-consumption devices motivates the search for layered structures that stabilize chiral spin textures such as topologically protected skyrmions. Here we demonstrate that chiral spin textures are induced at graphene/ferromagnetic metal interfaces. Graphene is a weak spin–orbit coupling material and is generally not expected to induce a sufficient Dzyaloshinskii–Moriya interaction to affect magnetic chirality. We demonstrate that indeed graphene does induce a type of Dzyaloshinskii–Moriya interaction due to the Rashba effect. First-principles calculations and experiments using spin-polarized electron microscopy show that this graphene-induced Dzyaloshinskii–Moriya interaction can have a similar magnitude to that at interfaces with heavy metals. This work paves a path towards two-dimensional-material-based spin–orbitronics.

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Fig. 1: Crystal and spin configurations of graphene-coated Co and Ni films used for DMI calculations.
Fig. 2: Anatomy of DMI for graphene/Co and graphene/Ni bilayers.
Fig. 3: Experimental measurement of DMI in graphene/Co by means of SPLEEM.
Fig. 4: DMI and PMA for multilayers of graphene/[Co/Ni/graphene] n as a function of the junction number n.

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Acknowledgements

This work was supported by the European Union's Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme under grant agreement no. 696656 (GRAPHENE FLAGSHIP), the ANR ULTRASKY, SOSPIN. Ab initio calculations used the resources of GENCI-CINES with grant no. C2016097605. Work at the Molecular Foundry was supported by the Office of Science, Office of Basic Energy Sciences, of the US Department of Energy under contract no. DE-AC02-05CH11231. Work at UCD was supported by the UC Office of the President Multicampus Research Programs and Initiatives MRP-17-454963 (G.C.) and NSF DMR-1610060 (K.L.). A.A.C.C., W.A.A.M. and E.A.S. acknowledge the support of the Brazilian agencies CAPES, CNPq and FAPEMIG. H.Y. would like also to acknowledge the 1000 Talents Program for Young Scientists of China and Ningbo 3315 Program. We thank V. Cros, O. Boulle, G. Gaudin, I. M. Miron, T. P. Ma and A. Thiaville for fruitful discussions and comments.

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H.Y. and G.C. conceived the study. H.Y and S.A.N. performed the ab initio calculations with the help of M.C. H.Y., M.C., S.A.N. and A.F. analysed and interpreted the ab initio results. G.C. and A.A.C.C. carried out the SPLEEM measurements. A.K.S. supervised the SPLEEM facility. G.C., A.A.C.C., A.T.N., K.L. and A.K.S analysed the SPLEEM results. G.C. derived the DMI strength from experimental data. G.C., A.A.C.C., A.T.N., K.L., A.K.S., E.A.S. and W.A.A.M. interpreted and discussed the experimental result. A.A.C.C., E.A.S. and W.A.A.M. performed XPS measurements. H.Y and G.C. prepared the manuscript with help from A.A.C.C., A.K.S., S.A.N. and M.C. All authors commented on the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Hongxin Yang or Gong Chen or Andreas K. Schmid or Mairbek Chshiev.

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Yang, H., Chen, G., Cotta, A.A.C. et al. Significant Dzyaloshinskii–Moriya interaction at graphene–ferromagnet interfaces due to the Rashba effect. Nature Mater 17, 605–609 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41563-018-0079-4

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