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Nat Nanotechnol. 2016 Oct;11(10):878-884. doi: 10.1038/nnano.2016.109. Epub 2016 Jul 11.

Field-free switching of perpendicular magnetization through spin-orbit torque in antiferromagnet/ferromagnet/oxide structures.

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Department of Materials Science and Engineering and KI for Nanocentury, KAIST, Daejeon 34141, Korea.
School of Electrical Engineering, KAIST, Daejeon 34141, Korea.
Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Korea University, Seoul 02841, Korea.
Center for Spintronics, Korea Institute of Science and Technology, Seoul 02792, Korea.
KU-KIST Graduate School of Converging Science and Technology, Korea University, Seoul 02841, Korea.
PCTP and Department of Physics, Pohang University of Science and Technology, Pohang 37673, Korea.
Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology, National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg, Maryland 20899, USA.
Maryland Nanocenter, University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland 20742, USA.
Basic Science Research Institute, Pohang University of Science and Technology, Pohang 37673, Korea.
Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Graduate School of Energy Science Technology, Chungnam National University, Daejeon 34134, Korea.


Spin-orbit torques arising from the spin-orbit coupling of non-magnetic heavy metals allow electrical switching of perpendicular magnetization. However, the switching is not purely electrical in laterally homogeneous structures. An extra in-plane magnetic field is indeed required to achieve deterministic switching, and this is detrimental for device applications. On the other hand, if antiferromagnets can generate spin-orbit torques, they may enable all-electrical deterministic switching because the desired magnetic field may be replaced by their exchange bias. Here we report sizeable spin-orbit torques in IrMn/CoFeB/MgO structures. The antiferromagnetic IrMn layer also supplies an in-plane exchange bias field, which enables all-electrical deterministic switching of perpendicular magnetization without any assistance from an external magnetic field. Together with sizeable spin-orbit torques, these features make antiferromagnets a promising candidate for future spintronic devices. We also show that the signs of the spin-orbit torques in various IrMn-based structures cannot be explained by existing theories and thus significant theoretical progress is required.


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