Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation


Physics and Astronomy



First Advisor

Yaroslaw Bazaliy


Spin-transfer torque induced magnetic switching, by which the spin-polarized current transfers its magnetic moment to the ferromagnetic layer and changes its magnetization, holds great promise towards faster and smaller magnetic bits in data-storage applications due to the lower power consumption and better scalability.

We propose an analytic approach which can be used to calculate the switching phase diagram of a nanomagnetic system in the presence of both magnetic field and spin-transfer torque in an exact fashion. This method is applied to the study of switching conditions for the uniaxial, single domain magnetic layers in different spin-transfer devices. In a spin valve with spin polarization collinear with the easy axis, we get a modified Stoner-Wohlfarth astroid which represents many of the features that have been found in experiment. It also shows a self-crossing boundary and demonstrates a region with three stable equilibria. We demonstrate that the region of stable equilibria with energy near the maximum can be reached only through a narrow bottleneck in the field space, which sets a stringent requirement for magnetic field alignment in the experiments. Switching diagrams are then calculated for the setups with magnetic field not perfectly aligned with the easy axis.

In a ferromagnet-heavy-metal bilayer device with strong spin Hall effect, the in plane current becomes spin-polarized and transfers its magnetic moment to the ferromagnetic layer by diffusion. The three-dimensional asymmetric phase diagram is calculated. In the case that the external field is confined in the vertical plane defined by the direction of the current and the easy axis, the spin-transfer torque shifts the conventional in-plane (IP) equilibria within the same plane, and also creates two out-of-plane (OOP) equilibria, one of which can be stable. The threshold switching currents for IP switching and OOP switching are discussed.

We also address the magnetic switching processes. Damping switching and precessional switching are two different switching types that are typically considered in recent studies. In the damping mode the switching is slow and heavily depends on the initial deviation, while in the precessional mode the accurate manipulation of the field or current pulse is required. We propose a switching scenario for a fast and reliable switching by taking advantage of the out-of-plane stable equilibrium in the SHE induced magnetic switching. The magnetization is first driven by a pulse of field and current towards the OOP equilibrium without precession. Since it is in the lower half of the unit sphere, no backwards pulse is required for a complete switching. This indicates a potentially feasible method of reliable ultra-fast magnetic control.

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