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Evidence for spin swapping in an antiferromagnet

Abstract

Antiferromagnetic insulators offer strategic advantages in spintronic applications because of their negligible stray fields and ultrafast magnetic dynamics. Control of their magnetization and readout of their magnetic state are essential for these applications but remain challenging. Here we report the electrical detection of room-temperature magnetization switching in the canted antiferromagnetic insulator LaFeO3, capped with a Pt or W overlayer. The observation of a large magneto-thermovoltage with an in-plane temperature gradient suggests that the mechanism is the swapping of spin currents in the antiferromagnet. This effect provides a sensitive electrical probe of the tiny net magnetization in the insulator, which can be manipulated by a magnetic field on the order of 10 mT. Our results highlight a new material class of insulating canted antiferromagnets for spintronics and spin caloritronics and suggests a method for the electrical readout of magnetic signals in an antiferromagnetic insulator.

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Fig. 1: Spin structure and magnetization switching of a LaFeO3 crystal.
Fig. 2: Magneto-thermovoltage measurements on LaFeO3/Pt with an out-of-plane temperature gradient.
Fig. 3: Magneto-thermovoltage measurements on the c-axis oriented LaFeO3/Pt with an in-plane temperature gradient.
Fig. 4: Schematic of the spin swapping mechanism at the interface of a c-axis oriented LaFeO3 crystal and a heavy metal.

Data availability

Source data are available. Additional data supporting the findings of this study are available from the corresponding author upon request. Source data are provided with this paper.

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Acknowledgements

We acknowledge support from US National Science Foundation DMREF grants DMR-1729555, DMR-1729588 and DMR-1949701. G.A.F. acknowledges additional funding from DMR-2114825. The work of M.M., B.B. and A.B. was supported by US Department of Energy, Office of Science, Basic Energy Sciences grant no. DE-SC0019275 and benefitted from Northeastern University’s Advanced Scientific Computation Center and the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center through Department of Energy grant no. DE-AC02-05CH11231. This research used resources of the Advanced Photon Source, a Department of Energy Office of Science User Facility operated by Argonne National Laboratory under contract no. DE-AC02-06CH11357.

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Contributions

J.Z., W.L., G.A.F. and C.L.C. conceived the research plan. J.M.H. and J.Z. grew the LaFeO3 crystals, performed crystal characterizations, and oriented and polished the crystal pellets. W.L. and J.X. fabricated the devices and performed the magneto-thermovoltage measurements. B.M. and G.A.F. carried out the modelling and theoretical work. M.M., B.B. and A.B. performed the density functional theory calculations. J.F., Y.C. and D.H. performed the X-ray magnetic circular dichroism measurements. All co-authors contributed to the data analysis and writing of the manuscript.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Gregory A. Fiete, Jianshi Zhou or C. L. Chien.

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Nature Physics thanks Günter Reiss and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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Supplementary Figs. 1–10. Tables 1–5, discussion and references.

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Lin, W., He, J., Ma, B. et al. Evidence for spin swapping in an antiferromagnet. Nat. Phys. (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41567-022-01608-w

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