Interfacial spin-orbit effects in thin film structures tailored by material engineering

Key spin-orbit effects rely on breaking inversion asymmetry at interfaces. One of the limiting factors in using such spin orbit effects for advancing the next generation of magnetic storage devices is comprehending the interface between a heavy metal and a ferromagnet. In order to do so one must study the interface between these active components in a device. Much of the core concepts on which magnetic storage devices rely on are interface dependent [1]. It is therefore imperative to carefully understand, design and tune the interfaces to optimise device performance.
The Dzyaloshinskii-Moriya interaction is a phenomenon observed both in bulk B20­ compounds[2] and in interfacial multi-layered thin films. The iDMI is an antisymmetric exchange interaction in which neighbouring magnetic spins favours orthogonal alignment. This when adequately tuned can lead to very exciting highly canted spin structures such skyrmions[3-5]. In this project we investigate the iDMI and investigate how this iDMI can be tuned using material engineering and the tuning of the interface. For investigating the interfacial effects it is required to be able to reliably produce thin continuous films. In order to do so, we make use of the new Singulus Rotaris UHV deposition system which has the capability to produce uniform thin films on 200mm wafers using the 18 sputter cathodes which may be installed in its two main chambers. For more details on the equipment used in this project see here. The spin structures in our magnetic thin films are investigated using room temperature Kerr microscopy using an Evico Kerr microscope. Given the limited resolution of the Kerr microscope of 300nm we make use of various synchrotron facilities and use, Scanning Transmission X-ray Microscopy (STXM), Magnetic Transmission X-ray Microscopy (MTXM) and the Photo-Emission Electron Microscopy globally.