Mini Review ARTICLE
Spin-Orbit Torques in Transition Metal Dichalcogenide/Ferromagnet Heterostructures
- Zernike Institute for Advanced Materials, University of Groningen, Groningen, Netherlands
In recent years, there has been a growing interest in spin-orbit torques (SOTs) for manipulating the magnetization in nonvolatile magnetic memory devices. SOTs rely on the spin-orbit coupling of a nonmagnetic material coupled to a ferromagnetic layer to convert an applied charge current into a torque on the magnetization of the ferromagnet (FM). Transition metal dichalcogenides (TMDs) are promising candidates for generating these torques with both high charge-to-spin conversion ratios, and symmetries and directions which are efficient for magnetization manipulation. Moreover, TMDs offer a wide range of attractive properties, such as large spin-orbit coupling, high crystalline quality and diverse crystalline symmetries. Although numerous studies were published on SOTs using TMD/FM heterostructures, we lack clear understanding of the observed SOT symmetries, directions, and strengths. In order to shine some light on the differences and similarities among the works in literature, in this mini-review we compare the results for various TMD/FM devices, highlighting the experimental techniques used to fabricate the devices and to quantify the SOTs, discussing their potential effect on the interface quality and resulting SOTs. This enables us to both identify the impact of particular fabrication steps on the observed SOT symmetries and directions, and give suggestions for their underlying microscopic mechanisms. Furthermore, we highlight recent progress of the theoretical work on SOTs using TMD heterostructures and propose future research directions.
Spin-orbit torques (SOTs) are promising candidates for effective manipulation of magnetization through electric currents with applications in nonvolatile magnetic memory and logic devices. SOTs convert an electric current into a magnetic torque in non-magnetic/ferromagnetic heterostructure, i.e., an electric current through the stack can modulate the direction of the ferromagnet’s magnetization (Gambardella and Miron, 2011; Manchon et al., 2019). Devices showing large SOT efficiencies usually rely on a nonmagnetic material with large spin-orbit coupling in contact with a ferromagnet (FM). Transition metal dichalcogenides (TMDs), with chemical formula MX2, where M is a transition metal (e.g., Mo, and W) and X a chalcogen element (e.g., S and Se), can provide large spin-orbit coupling and pristine surfaces which can result in a more intimate contact between the TMD and the FM layer. Furthermore, this family of materials offers a wide range of electronic and crystalline properties and symmetries. Although numerous articles were published on SOTs in TMD/ferromagnetic heterostructures, a clear understanding of the different mechanisms underlying observed SOTs remain yet to be understood.
In this mini-review, we give an overview of the recent progress on SOTs in TMD/FM heterostructures. Materials with high charge-to-spin conversion efficiencies, such as WTe2 and TaTe2 (Safeer et al., 2019; Zhao et al., 2020; Hoque et al., 2020), are often considered as good candidates for large SOT efficiencies. However, large charge-to-spin conversion efficiencies are no guarantee for large SOT efficiencies, as SOTs are often an emergent phenomenon, depending on proximity effects (spin-orbit coupling and magnetic exchange), wavefunction overlap, and interface spin transparency (spin mixing conductance) as well. Indeed, the observed torques in TMD/FM heterostructures cannot always be explained by well-known effects such as the bulk spin Hall effect (SHE) (Dyakonov and Perel, 1971; Hirsch, 1999; Sinova et al., 2015) or the interfacial Rashba-Edelstein Effect (REE) (Edelstein, 1990; Ganichev et al., 2002; Kato et al., 2004; Mihai Miron et al., 2010; Ganichev et al., 2016) (Figure 1), indicating that other mechanisms involving material specific properties or interfacial effects are into play. This is supported by recent works suggesting that both the type of ferromagnetic layer (Dolui and Nikolic, 2020; Go and Lee, 2020) and the interface properties between the TMD and the ferromagnetic layer (Amin et al., 2020; Sousa et al., 2020; Go et al., 2020) (Sahoo et al., 2020; Kumar et al., 2020; Xue et al. 2020) are of paramount importance for the observed SOTs, allowing for enhanced and unconventional SOTs.
FIGURE 1. Schematics of SOTs in TMD/FM heterostructures. A charge current, usually oscillating at low (RF) frequencies for SHH (ST-FMR) measurements is applied along a device consisting of a TMD layer and a FM. The magnetization of the FM layer, oriented along an external magnetic field, observes a current-induced SOT in-plane (
To describe to different torques, we use the notation in terms of odd
Discussion on Recent Progress
The field of SOTs using TMD-based devices has been rapidly developed in the past 5 years. Experimental studies have used different TMD sources (e.g., mechanical exfoliation or chemical vapor deposition, CVD), FM materials, deposition methods (e.g., sputtering or electron-beam evaporation), and measurement techniques, namely second-harmonic Hall (SHH) (Garello et al., 2013; Hayashi et al., 2014; Avci et al., 2014; Ghosh et al., 2017) or spin-torque ferromagnetic resonance (ST-FMR) (Liu et al., 2011; Fang et al., 2011; Berger et al., 2018). So far, it is unclear how these different techniques and procedures affect the measured SOTs.
In this section, we discuss the results for semiconducting, semi-metallic and metallic TMDs, giving an overview of their fabrication and measurement techniques (Table 1). Comparing the TMDs in this way allows us to pinpoint important differences and similarities in the observed torques.
TABLE 1. Recent studies on TMD/FM heterostructures with their fabrication techniques and spin torque conductivities.
Shao et al. were one of the first to examine SOTs in TMD/FM heterostructures (Shao et al., 2016). There, SOTs were quantified by the non-resonant SHH measurements on monolayer (1L) MoS2 and WSe2 coupled with CoFeB (3 nm). They observed a temperature independent out-of-plane FL torque
Interestingly, in a concurrent work, Zhang et al. obtained different results using a high-frequency technique, ST-FMR, on 1L-MoS2/Permalloy (Ni80Fe20 – Py) 5 nm (Zhang et al., 2016). There, they identified an in-plane DL
The discrepancy between results for MoS2/FM bilayers suggests that not only the spin-orbit material but also the type of ferromagnetic material (CoFeB vs Py) can play a significant role in the observed torques. This is theoretically substantiated in a recent work (Dolui and Nikolic, 2020), where calculations on MoSe2/Co, WSe2/Co and TaSe2/Co heterostructures were performed. They find that the hybridization of the Co wavefunctions with those of the TMDs leads to dramatic transmutation of the electronic and spin structure of the Co layers, even within eight layers away from the interface. This suggests that injecting unpolarized spin currents in these spin-orbit-proximitized layers of Co generates nonequilibrium spin densities, which in turn leads to a nonzero local torque on the magnetization. Both the spin polarization direction and magnitude were shown to differ between the different TMDs and complex spin textures were obtained for the spin-orbit-proximitized layers. These results indicate that the FM material can play an active role in the type of SOTs observed. Moreover, recent theoretical works (Sousa et al., 2020) pointed out that different scattering mechanisms lead to different torque symmetries, indicating that the sample quality, symmetry and nature of scatterers also plays a role here. Different FM materials in FM/TMD heterostructures might therefore exhibit different SOTs as was the case for Shao et al. and Zhang et al.
More recently, WS2 was studied by Lv et al. in a 1L-WS2/Py (10 nm) heterostructure (Lv et al., 2018) using CVD-grown WS2 and electron-beam evaporated Py layer. The authors observe both a DL torque
In addition to semiconducting TMDs, a variety of semi-metallic TMDs have been studied, with special focus given to low-symmetry crystals. A particularly interesting candidate is WTe2, belonging to space group
MacNeill et al. were the first to examine SOTs using WTe2 (MacNeill et al., 2017a). Using ST-FMR, the authors observed
Subsequent studies indicated a strong temperature dependence (
More recently, WTe2/Py heterostructures have been shown to be very efficient for current-induced in-plane magnetization switching, with switching current densities in the order of 105 A/cm2 (Shi et al., 2019). In the same work, the authors also reported a thickness dependence on the spin Hall efficiency in WTe2, with larger values at higher thicknesses. However, the ST-FMR results show a significant frequency dependence and the role of artifacts such as skin-depth effects could not be ruled out. Nevertheless, the low threshold for current-induced magnetization switching indicates a promising direction for TMDs in future applications. Interestingly, these structures have also shown the presence of a Dzyaloshinskii-Moriya interaction, an essential ingredient for chiral magnetism.
The anisotropic in-plane conductivity in low-symmetry crystals can also impact SOTs. Results on TaTe2/Py heterostructures have shown SOTs with Dresselhaus-like symmetries (
Interestingly, both TaTe2 and WTe2 have shown to induce an in-plane magnetic anisotropy on Py, indicating a strong interaction between the semi-metallic TMDs and the FM layer. The anisotropy induced by WTe2 was shown to be about 10 s of mT and one order of magnitude larger than the one induced by TaTe2. Additionally, the two TMDs induced anisotropy in different directions with respect to their crystal orientations, hinting toward the dependence of the induced magnetic anisotropy and the electronic structure of the TMD.
Another interesting semi-metallic TMD is
In addition to the out-of-plane DL torque
More recently, PtTe2/Py devices (Xu et al., 2020) have shown a high spin-torque conductivity for the in-plane DL torque
Despite offering stronger spin-orbit interaction and higher conductivity, metallic TMDs have received less attention than their semi-metallic and semiconducting counterparts. To date, only two experimental studies have been reported (Guimarães et al., 2018; Husain et al., 2020).
Thickness dependent ST-FMR measurements on NbSe2 (1–10 layers)/Py heterostructures revealed an in-plane DL torque
In addition to the SOTs with conventional symmetries, an in-plane FL torque
A large spin-torque conductivity of
In this review, we have given an overview of the current status of the field of SOTs in TMD/FM heterostructures. A multitude of SOT symmetries, magnitudes and directions were observed, which could not always be explained by well-known effects such as the SHE and REE. Different mechanisms that do not rely on a large spin-orbit coupling, such as anisotropic in-plane conductivity and uniaxial strain, can also play an important role. Additionally, interfacial effects such as spin-orbit filtering, spin-orbit precession and spin-momentum locking in topological surface states may affect the observed torques. In combination with the large torque conductivities obtained at clean interfaces, this suggests that the TMD/FM interface quality is of paramount importance for both the torque magnitude and direction. Lastly, the ferromagnetic layer, often considered to play a passive role, can have a significant effect on the observed SOTs due to changes of the electronic structure and intermixing at the interface. Dzyaloshinskii–Moriya interaction (DMI) has been shown to arise at TMD/FM interfaces demonstrating a strong interaction between these materials (Kumar et al., 2020; Shi et al., 2019; Wu et al., 2020). The large interfacial DMI in these heterostructures could be explored in future devices combining chiral magnetic structures and SOTs.
Although the crystal symmetry allows for a reasonable prediction of the allowed SOTs, a better understanding of the underlying microscopic mechanisms is key in qualitatively explaining the observed SOTs. In this regard, thickness dependent measurements provide a tool to better differentiate bulk effects from interfacial effects. However, as the contributions of different effects are measured all at once, it remains difficult to distinguish the numerous mechanisms underlying the torques with the current experimental techniques. To clarify the role of the ferromagnetic layer, a variety of devices with different FM materials should be fabricated.
Van der Waals heterostructures composed of TMDs, two-dimensional magnetic materials and graphene should allow for the study of SOTs at the ultimate thickness. Due to their small thickness, in addition to possibly reducing the device footprint, atomically-thin materials are more susceptible to external stimuli, such as gate-voltages, strain and illumination. Along these lines, interesting predictions point to the modulation of SOT and magnetization by gate-voltages in these structures (Dolui et al., 2019; Zollner et al., 2020). The exploration of gate-tunable SOTs in TMD/FM heterostructures could serve as a first step toward non-volatile data processing and storage as well as processing-in-memory applications. By giving an overview of the current status of the field, we hope to facilitate progress on elucidating the different underlying physical mechanisms for the SOTs.
Both authors compiled the studies and wrote the manuscript.
Conflict of Interest
The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.
We acknowledge funding from the Dutch Research Council (NWO) Start-Up Grant (STU.019.014), the European Union Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under grant agreements No 696656 and 785219 (Graphene Flagship Core 2 and Core 3), and the Zernike Institute for Advanced Materials.
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Keywords: spin-orbit torques (SOT), transition metal dichalcogenides (TMD), van der Waals materials, spin-orbitronics, Two-dimensional materials (2D materials)
Citation: Hidding J and Guimarães MHD (2020) Spin-Orbit Torques in Transition Metal Dichalcogenide/Ferromagnet Heterostructures. Front. Mater. 7:594771. doi: 10.3389/fmats.2020.594771
Received: 14 August 2020; Accepted: 12 October 2020;
Published: 16 November 2020.
Edited by:Myung Gwan Hahm, Inha University, South Korea
Reviewed by:Bipin Kumar Gupta, National Physical Laboratory (CSIR), India
Narayanan Tharangattu Narayanan, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, India
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