Electric field control of spin–orbit torque in ferromagnets1 has been intensively pursued in spintronics to achieve efficient memory and computing devices with ultralow energy consumption. Compared with ferromagnets, antiferromagnets2,3 have huge potential in high-density information storage because of their ultrafast spin dynamics and vanishingly small stray field4,5,6,7. However, the manipulation of spin–orbit torque in antiferromagnets using electric fields remains elusive. Here we use ferroelastic strain from piezoelectric materials to switch the uniaxial magnetic anisotropy in antiferromagnetic Mn2Au films with an electric field of only a few kilovolts per centimetre at room temperature. Owing to the uniaxial magnetic anisotropy, we observe an asymmetric Néel spin–orbit torque8,9 in the Mn2Au, which is used to demonstrate an antiferromagnetic ratchet. The asymmetry of the Néel spin–orbit torque and the corresponding antiferromagnetic ratchet can be reversed by the electric field. Our finding sheds light on antiferromagnet-based memories with ultrahigh density and high energy efficiency.
Subscribe to Journal
Get full journal access for 1 year
only $17.42 per issue
All prices are NET prices.
VAT will be added later in the checkout.
Rent or Buy article
Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.
All prices are NET prices.
The data that support the plots within this paper and other findings of this study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.
Cai, K. M. et al. Electric field control of deterministic current-induced magnetization switching in a hybrid ferromagnetic/ferroelectric structure. Nat. Mater. 16, 712–716 (2017).
Jungwirth, T., Marti, X., Wadley, P. & Wunderlich, J. Antiferromagnetic spintronics. Nat. Nanotechnol. 11, 231–241 (2016).
Baltz, V. et al. Antiferromagnetic spintronics. Rev. Mod. Phys. 90, 015005 (2018).
Park, B. G. et al. A spin-valve-like magnetoresistance of an antiferromagnet-based tunnel junction. Nat. Mater. 10, 347–351 (2011).
Qiu, Z. Y. et al. Spin colossal magnetoresistance in an antiferromagnetic insulator. Nat. Mater. 17, 577–580 (2018).
Marti, X. et al. Room-temperature antiferromagnetic memory resistor. Nat. Mater. 13, 367–374 (2014).
Lebrun, R. et al. Tunable long-distance spin transport in a crystalline antiferromagnetic iron oxide. Nature 561, 222–225 (2018).
Wadley, P. et al. Electrical switching of an antiferromagnet. Science 351, 587–590 (2016).
Bodnar, S. Y. et al. Writing and reading antiferromagnetic Mn2Au by Néel spin–orbit torques and large anisotropic magnetoresistance. Nat. Commun. 9, 348 (2018).
Slonczewski, J. C. Current-driven excitation of magnetic multilayers. J. Magn. Magn. Mater. 159, L1–L7 (1996).
Liu, L. Q. et al. Spin-torque switching with the giant spin Hall effect of tantalum. Science 336, 555–558 (2012).
Parkin, S. S. P. et al. Exchange-biased magnetic tunnel junctions and application to nonvolatile magnetic random access memory. J. Appl. Phys. 85, 5828–5833 (1999).
Wang, W. G., Li, M. E., Hageman, S. & Chien, C. L. Electric-field-assisted switching in magnetic tunnel junctions. Nat. Mater. 11, 64–68 (2012).
Kosub, T. et al. Purely antiferromagnetic magnetoelectric random access memory. Nat. Commun. 8, 13985 (2017).
Song, C., Cui, B., Li, F., Zhou, X. J. & Pan, F. Recent progress in voltage control magnetism: materials, mechanisms, and performance. Prog. Mater. Sci. 87, 33–82 (2017).
Zhao, T. et al. Electrical control of antiferromagnetic domains in multiferroic BiFeO3 films at room temperature. Nat. Mater. 5, 823–829 (2006).
Wang, Y. Y. et al. Electrical control of the exchange spring in antiferromagnetic metals. Adv. Mater. 27, 3196–3201 (2015).
Cherifi, R. O. et al. Electric-field control of magnetic order above room temperature. Nat. Mater. 13, 345–351 (2014).
Yan, H. et al. A piezoelectric, strain-controlled antiferromagnetic memory insensitive to magnetic fields. Nat. Nanotechnol. 14, 131–136 (2019).
Liu, M. et al. Voltage-impulse-induced non-volatile ferroelastic switching of ferromagnetic resonance for reconfigurable magnetoelectric microwave devices. Adv. Mater. 25, 4886 (2013).
Zhang, S. et al. Giant electrical modulation of magnetization in Co40Fe40B20/Pb(Mg1/3Nb2/3)0.7Ti0.3O3(011) heterostructure. Sci. Rep. 4, 3727 (2014).
Shick, A. B., Khmelevskyi, S., Mryasov, O. N., Wunderlich, J. & Jungwirth, T. Spin-orbit coupling induced anisotropy effects in bimetallic antiferromagnets: a route towards antiferromagnetic spintronics. Phys. Rev. B 81, 212409 (2010).
Jourdan, M. et al. Epitaxial Mn2Au thin films for antiferromagnetic spintronics. J. Phys. D 48, 385001 (2015).
Sapozhnik, A. A. et al. Manipulation of antiferromagnetic domain distribution in Mn2Au by ultrahigh magnetic fields and by strain. Phys. Status Solidi Rapid Res. Lett. 11, 1600438 (2017).
Barthem, V. M. T. S., Colin, C. V., Haettel, R., Dufeu, D. & Givord, D. Easy moment direction and antiferromagnetic domain wall motion in Mn2Au. J. Magn. Magn. Mater. 406, 289–292 (2016).
Sapozhnik, A. A. et al. Direct imaging of antiferromagnetic domains in Mn2Au manipulated by high magnetic fields. Phys. Rev. B 97, 134429 (2017).
Wang, Y. Y., Song, C., Wang, G. Y., Zeng, F. & Pan, F. Evidence for asymmetric rotation of spins in antiferromagnetic exchange-spring. New J. Phys. 16, 123032 (2014).
Chen, X. Z. et al. Antidamping-torque-induced switching in biaxial antiferromagnetic insulators. Phys. Rev. Lett. 120, 207204 (2018).
Moriyama, T., Zhou, W. N., Seki, T., Takanashi, K. & Ono, T. Spin-orbit-torque memory operation of synthetic antiferromagnets. Phys. Rev. Lett. 121, 167202 (2018).
Hänggi, P. & Marchesoni, F. Artificial Brownian motors: controlling transport on the nanoscale. Rev. Mod. Phys. 81, 387–442 (2009).
We are grateful for discussions with J. H. Han, D. Z. Hou and P. Yu. C.S. acknowledges the support of the Beijing Innovation Center for Future Chips, Tsinghua University and the Young Chang Jiang Scholars Programme. The XMLD measurements were carried out at Beamline BL08U1A of SSRF. This work was supported by the National Key R&D Programme of China (grant no. 2017YFB0405704), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (grant nos. 51871130, 51571128, 51671110 and 51831005) and the 973 project of the Ministry of Science and Technology of China (grant no. 2015CB921402).
The authors declare no competing interests.
Publisher’s note: Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
About this article
Cite this article
Chen, X., Zhou, X., Cheng, R. et al. Electric field control of Néel spin–orbit torque in an antiferromagnet. Nat. Mater. 18, 931–935 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41563-019-0424-2
Advanced Materials (2020)
Science China Physics, Mechanics & Astronomy (2020)
Comprehensive Electrical Control of Metamagnetic Transition of a Quasi‐2D Antiferromagnet by In Situ Anisotropic Strain
Advanced Materials (2020)
Journal of Magnetism and Magnetic Materials (2020)
Spin Logical and Memory Device Based on the Nonvolatile Ferroelectric Control of the Perpendicular Magnetic Anisotropy in PbZr 0.2 Ti 0.8 O 3 /Co/Pt Heterostructure
Advanced Electronic Materials (2020)