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Nanoscale domain wall devices with magnetic tunnel junction read and write


The manipulation of fast domain wall motion in magnetic nanostructures could form the basis of novel magnetic memory and logic devices. However, current approaches for reading and writing domain walls require external magnetic fields, or are based on conventional magnetic tunnel junctions (MTJs) that are not compatible with high-speed domain wall motion. Here we report domain wall devices based on perpendicular MTJs that offer electrical read and write, and fast domain wall motion via spin–orbit torque. The devices have a hybrid free layer design that consists of platinum/cobalt (Pt/Co) or a synthetic antiferromagnet (Pt/Co/Ru/Co) into the free layer of conventional MTJs. We show that our devices can achieve good tunnelling magnetoresistance readout and efficient spin-transfer torque writing that is comparable to current magnetic random-access memory technology, as well as domain wall depinning efficiency that is similar to stand-alone materials. We also show that a domain wall conduit based on a synthetic antiferromagnet offers the potential for reliable domain wall motion and faster write speed compared with a device based on Pt/Co.

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Fig. 1: Schematics of the HFL concept.
Fig. 2: Hysteresis loops showing reliable TMR and STT in HFL MTJs.
Fig. 3: Fast STT switching in SAF-HFL without degradation of retention time.
Fig. 4: Full operation of a DW device with MTJs enabling STT write and TMR readout and SOT-driven DW transport.
Fig. 5: Fast DW propagation in SAF-HFL compared with Pt/Co-HFL.

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Data availability

The data that support the plots within this paper and other findings of this study are available from the corresponding authors upon reasonable request.


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This work was performed as part of the imec IIAP core CMOS and the Beyond CMOS Program of Intel Corporation. We acknowledge J. Heijlen and the P-line for operational support. The magneto-optic Kerr effect microscopy experiments were performed at Technische Universiteit Eindhoven and we thank R. Lavrijsen for assistance. E.R. acknowledges FWO-Vlaanderen for a Strategic Basic Research PhD fellowship.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations



V.D.N. and S.C. conceived the HFL design for DW devices and managed the project. E.R. and V.D.N. were in charge of device characterizations, with help from K.G., S.C., D.W., I.R., I.A., I.A.Y., D.E.N., B.S. and M.H. E.R., O.B., V.D.N. and T.D. performed the time-resolved experiments and interpreted the results. D.W. was in charge of the device integration process. Devices were fabricated by D.W., Y.C., L.S., A.T. and D.T. The thin films were deposited by S.C. O.B. reported on the time-resolved measurements of single pillars. E.R., K.G. and V.D.N. wrote the manuscript. All authors discussed the results and commented on the manuscript.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to E. Raymenants or V. D. Nguyen.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

Additional information

Peer review information Nature Electronics thanks Guoqiang Yu, Kaiyou Wang and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

Publisher’s note Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Extended data

Extended Data Fig. 1 Representation of current flow for electrical operation of DW device.

Current path for reading and writing displayed for center pillar (a) and for DW motion driven by spin orbit torque (SOT) (b).

Extended Data Fig. 2 Fabrication process in imec’s 300 mm pilot line.

(a) Bottom electrode contact (BEC), BEC feedlines and contact plugs were defined. (b) MTJ stack deposition using ultra-high vacuum magnetron sputtering system (c) Pillar patterning by 193 nm immersion lithography followed by ion-beam-etch (d) Free layer shape is defined by 193 nm immersion lithography double patterning (e) Dual damascene Cu top contact formation (f) 3-dimensional image of DW device with individual top electrode for each pillar.

Extended Data Fig. 3 Comparison of coercive field and propagation field.

(a) The coercive field BC is the switching field obtained during a conventional R(H) loop. The propagation field BP is obtained after STT-driven nucleation in the center pillar (P2) and consecutive sweeping of the z-field from 0 mT upwards. The domain then expands to the outer pillars (P1 and P3). (b) Box plots of the coercive and propagation fields of 10 measurements. The average coercive field is 61 mT while the propagation field to both pillars is only 33 mT. (c) Demonstration of the initial state of the device before the R(H) loop is initiated. Device is fully saturated to obtain coercive field BC (top), a domain was initially nucleated in P2 to obtain the propagation field BP (bottom).

Extended Data Fig. 4 Reproducibility of spin-orbit torque-driven DW motion in operation mode.

STT nucleation in P2 followed by SOT-transport to P3 with positive current (top) and SOT-transport to P1 with negative current (bottom). Measurement ~100 x reproducible with each current polarity as described in Fig. 4e,f. The DW never propagates to the reverse direction, that is, no switch in P1 (top) and P3 (bottom).

Extended Data Fig. 5 Demonstration of spin-orbit torque-driven DW motion from different inputs.

(Top left) Resistance versus field loop displays the coercive field BC, the propagation field BP and the assist field BA for SOT-driven motion. The schematics at the top display the applied current polarity and direction of DW motion. The domain is nucleated by STT in P1 (second row), P2 (third row), and P3 (fourth row) as shown by the schematics on the left. In the last case (fifth row), no domain is nucleated by STT. The latter confirms that all the above are SOT-driven propagation of DWs, and not SOT-driven DW nucleation.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Supplementary discussion, consisting of Supplementary Notes 1–6 and Figs. 1.1, 2.2.2, 3.1, 3.1.1, 3.1.2, 3.1.3, 3.1.4, 4.1, 4.2, 4.3, 4.4, 5.1, 5.2, 5.3, 6.1.1, 6.1.2, 6.2.1, 6.2.2, 6.3 and 6.4.

Supplementary Video 1

Non-uniform domain wall transport in a Pt/Co track driven by spin–orbit torque.

Supplementary Video 2

Uniform and fast domain wall transport in a synthetic antiferromagnetic track driven by spin–orbit torque.

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Raymenants, E., Bultynck, O., Wan, D. et al. Nanoscale domain wall devices with magnetic tunnel junction read and write. Nat Electron 4, 392–398 (2021).

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