Symmetry-Dependent Field-Free Switching of Perpendicular Magnetization

Jingsheng Chen, National University of Singapore

April 13, 2021

Modern magnetic-memory technology requires all-electric control of perpendicular magnetization with low energy consumption. While spin-orbit torque (SOT) in heavy metal/ferromagnet (HM/FM) heterostructures holds promise for applications in magnetic random access memory, till today, it is limited to the in-plane direction. Such in-plane torque can switch perpendicular magnetization only deterministically with the help of additional symmetry breaking, e.g., through the application of an external magnetic field, an interlayer coupling or an asymmetric design. Instead, an out-of-plane spin-orbit torque could directly switch perpendicular magnetization. Here we observe an out-of-plane spin-orbit torque in an HM/FM bilayer of L11-ordered CuPt/CoPt and demonstrate field-free switching of the perpendicular magnetization of the CoPt layer.1 The low symmetry point group (3m1) at the CuPt/CoPt interface gives rise to this spin torque, herein after referred as 3m torque, which strongly depends on the relative orientation of current flow and crystal symmetry. We observe a 3-fold angular dependence in both the field-free switching and the current-induced out-of-plane effective field as shown in Figure 1. Because of the intrinsic nature of the 3m torque, the field-free switching in CuPt/CoPt shows good endurance in cycling experiments. Experiments with the wide variety of SOT bilayers with low-symmetry point groups at the interface may uncover further unconventional spin-torques in future.

[1] Liang Liu et al., Nature Nanotechnology 16, 277 (2021).

Figure 1| Symmetry-dependent magnetic field-free magnetization switching. a, Schematic of the CuPt/CoPt Hall bar for electrical transport measurement. The red arrow represents the magnetization (M). The grey arrow represents the current (I) flowing. The x and y-axis are the same as that in (b). b, The definition of current flowing direction (θI). The current is applied along the Hall bar, which has an azimuth angle of θI with respect to the [1-10] direction. c, Anomalous Hall effect of the bilayer for θI = 0°. d, Current angle dependence of the SOT induced magnetization switching. The solid line is a cosine fit to the data. e, Current-induced magnetization switching for Hall bars with different θ. The dashed (solid) arrows indicate clockwise (anti-clockwise) switching polarity. The loops were manually shifted for better visualization. The pulse width is 30 μs.