New Materials for Spintronics : Electronic structure and magnetism

Abstract: Materials exhibiting new functionalities due to interdependent electric (e.g. conductivity) and magnetic properties are potentially interesting for spintronics applications. We have investigated electronic and magnetic properties by means of x-ray spectroscopies and SQUID magnetometry in several magnetic materials, often in the form of thin films, which have shown promising properties for applications.One of the main subjects has been studies of inter-diffusion between layers in multilayer structures, which is an important factor for spin-dependent transport and magnetic properties. These studies have been performed by high kinetic (HIKE) photoemission spectroscopy where high photon energies increase the bulk sensitivity in comparison to soft x-ray photoemission spectroscopy. Cu/Ni multilayers were studied mainly as a model system and revealed a diffusion process that was dependent on layer thicknesses and capping materials. CoFeB/MgO/CoFeB, which is used as a magnetic field sensor in hard drives, has recently been shown to exhibit a perpendicular magnetic anisotropy (PMA) switchable by electric fields. We have studied both the interface quality and magnetic properties of thin CoFeB layers exhibiting PMA. Layered structures of full Heusler alloys Co2MnGe/Rh2CuSn have been proposed as a promising candidate for current-perpendicular-to-plane giant magneto-resistance sensors. Using HIKE,we have shown that diffusion of atoms, mainly Mn, occurs at temperatures lower than what is used in device fabrication, which likely contributes to the limited magneto-resistance values obtained.Lately, a large body of research has been performed on semiconductors doped with transition metal elements with the hope to find a ferromagnetic semiconductor at room temperature, a foundation for new devices combining spin and charge in their functionality. We have investigated Co and Fe doping in ZnO for different concentrations of the dopants and different annealing temperatures. The Co and Fe atoms are shown to forms clusters for which antiferromagnetic interactions are dominating.