The nano engineering and spintronic technologies (NEST) group focuses on understanding the physical processes and developing the fundamental understanding necessary to create the computational and data storage devices of the future.

Our research includes exploring recent device ideas in non-conventional computing and encompasses a broad range of activities to explore the spin of electrons in nanoscale magnetic structures. The group interacts strongly with the Henry Royce Institute for advanced materials and the National Graphene Institute. We regularly use large scale facilities in the UK and Europe for neutron and X-ray scattering and have wide range of collaborators in the UK and Europe.

As a group we have access to world class fabrication and characterisation facilities in the Manchester Centre for Mesoscience and Nanotechnology and the National Graphene Institute.

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New Paper in Nanotechnology

We have had a new paper “Nanometre imaging of Fe3GeTe2 ferromagnetic domain walls” published in Nanotechnology. You can view the paper online here.

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Abstract: Fe3GeTe2 is a layered crystal which has recently been shown to maintain its itinerant ferromagnetic properties even when atomically thin. Here, differential phase contrast scanning transmission electron microscopy is used to investigate the domain structure in a Fe3GeTe2 cross-sectional lamella at temperatures ranging from 95 to 250 K and at nanometre spatial resolution. Below the experimentally determined Curie temperature (TC) of 191 K, stripe domains magnetised along 〈0001〉, bounded with 180 Bloch type domain walls, are observed, transitioning to mixed Bloch−Néel type where the cross-sectional thickness is reduced below 50 nm. When warming towards TC, these domains undergo slight restructuring towards uniform size, before abruptly fading at TC. Localised loss of ferromagnetic order is seen over time, hypothesised to be a frustration of ferromagnetic order from ambient oxidation and basal cracking, which could enable selective modification of the magnetic properties for device applications.

New Paper in APL Materials

Congratulations to Will Griggs who has his paper “Depth selective magnetic phase coexistence in FeRh thin films” published in APOL materials. You can view the paper online here.

Abstract: We demonstrate the manipulation of magnetic phases in FeRh thin films through atomic displacements and the distribution of structural defects. Atomic scale disorder can be controlled via irradiation with light noble gas ions, producing depth-varying nanoscale phase configurations of distinct antiferromagnetic, ferromagnetic, and paramagnetic regions. Here, we perform a spatial characterization of the magnetic phases and the local magnetic environment around the Fe atoms, as well as the variation of the open-volumes around atomic sites. Thus, a direct correspondence between the existence of the three magnetic phases and lattice defects is revealed. By careful selection of the irradiating fluence, we show that it is possible to produce simple and thermally stable magnetic configurations, such as uniform magnetization or a bilayer phase structure. Furthermore, the thin film surface and interfaces are observed as the nucleation sites for the transitions between the phases. These results demonstrate a sensitive nanoscale manipulation of magnetic properties, shedding light on magnetic ordering in alloy lattices and broadening the scope for applications.

New Paper in Physical Review Research

Congratulations to Runze Chen who has had his paper “Skyrmionic Interconnect Device”, by R Chen, Y Li, V. F. Pavlidis, and C Moutafis, published in Physical Review Research. You can view the paper online here.
In this work, an all-magnetic skyrmion-based interconnect device – the so far “missing component” in skyrmionics – is proposed. Sequences of information are encoded by skyrmionic quasi-particles with distinct topological charges in a single device, thereby inherently enabling signal multiplexing. This work underpins a significant paradigm shift from particle-based into topology-based information technologies.

New Paper Published

We have a new paper published in Physical Review Applied: “Meronlike Spin Textures in In-Plane-Magnetized Thin Films”, J. Vijayakumar, Y. Li, D. Bracher, C. W. Barton, M. Horisberger, T. Thomson, J. Miles, C. Moutafis, F. Nolting, and C.A.F. Vaz, Phys. Phys. Rev. Appl. 14 (2020), 054031. You can view the published paper here.
Abstract: The interfacing of magnetic materials with nonmagnetic heavy metals with a large spin-orbit coupling, such as Pt, results in an asymmetric exchange interaction at the interface due to the Dzyaloshinskii-Moriya interaction (DMI), which in turn leads to the formation of skyrmions and topological spin structures in perpendicularly magnetized multilayers. Here, we show that out-of-plane spin domains with lateral dimensions from 200 nm to 2 μm are stabilized in in-plane magnetized Ta/Co/Pt trilayers. We show that these spin textures are largely insensitive to the direction of the in-plane magnetization switched by either magnetic fields or electric fields applied across a Si3N4 gate dielectric. The results of micromagnetic simulations indicate that the DMI is required for the stabilization of such out-of-plane domains and that the presence of surface roughness helps to stabilize larger structures, in agreement with experimental results. We identify these spin structures as meronlike topological textures, characterized by a perpendicular spin texture in an uniformly in-plane magnetized system.

New Paper Published

We have a new paper published in Physical Review Applied: “Nanoscale room-temperature multilayer skyrmionic synapse for deep spiking neural network”, E. R. Chen, C. Li, Y. Li, J. Miles, G. Indiveri, S. Furber, V. F. Pavlidis, and C. Moutafis, Phys. Phys. Rev. Appl. 14 (2020), 014096. You can view the published paper here.
Abstract: Magnetic skyrmions have attracted considerable interest, especially after their recent experimental demonstration at room temperature in multilayers. The robustness, nanoscale size and non-volatility of skyrmions have triggered a substantial amount of research on skyrmion-based low-power, ultra-dense nanocomputing and neuromorphic systems such as artificial synapses. Room-temperature operation is required to integrate skyrmionic synapses in practical future devices. Here, we numerically propose a nanoscale skyrmionic synapse composed of magnetic multilayers that enables room-temperature device operation tailored for optimal synaptic resolution. We demonstrate that when embedding such multilayer skyrmionic synapses in a simple spiking neural network (SNN) with unsupervised learning via the spike-timing-dependent plasticity rule, we can achieve only a ~78% classification accuracy in the MNIST handwritten data set under realistic conditions. We propose that this performance can be significantly improved to ~98.61% by using a deep SNN with supervised learning. Our results illustrate that the proposed skyrmionic synapse can be a potential candidate for future energy-efficient neuromorphic edge computing.

New Paper Published

We have a new paper published in Physical Review Materials: “Anisotropy-induced spin reorientation in chemically modulated amorphous ferrimagnetic films”, E. Kirk, C. Bull, S. Finizio, H. Sepehri-Amin, S. Wintz, A. K. Suszka, N. S. Bingham, P. Warnicke, K. Hono, P. W. Nutter, J. Raabe, G. Hrkac, T. Thomson, and L. J. Heyderman, Phys. Rev. Materials, 5 (2020), 074403. You can view the published paper here.

Abstract: The ability to tune the competition between the in-plane and out-of-plane orientation of magnetization provides a means to construct thermal sensors with a sharp spin reorientation transition at specific temperatures. We have observed such a tuneable, temperature-driven spin reorientation in structurally amorphous, ferrimagnetic rare-earth transition-metal alloy thin films using scanning transmission x-ray microscopy and magnetic measurements. The nature of the spin reorientation transition in FeGd can be fully explained by a nonequilibrium, nanoscale modulation of the chemical composition of the films. This modulation leads to a magnetic domain pattern of nanoscale speckles superimposed on a background of in-plane domains that form Landau configurations in µm-scale patterned elements. It is this speckle magnetic structure that gives rise to a sharp two-step reversal mechanism that is temperature dependent. The possibility to balance competing anisotropies through the temperature opens opportunities to create and manipulate topological spin textures.

New Paper Published

We have had a new paper published in Physical Review Research: “Tunable terahertz oscillation arising from Bloch-point dynamics in chiral magnets”, Y. Li, L. Pierobon, M. Charilaou, H-B Braun, N. R. Walet, J. F. Löffler, J. J. Miles, and C. Moutafis, Phys Rev Research 2 (2020), 033006. You can view the published paper here.

Skyrmionic textures are being extensively investigated due to the occurrence of novel topological magnetic phenomena, and their promising applications in a new generation of spintronic devices take advantage of the robust topological stability of their spin structures. The development of practical devices relies on a detailed understanding of how skyrmionic structures can be formed, transferred, detected, and annihilated. In this work our considerations go beyond static skyrmions and theoretically show that the formation/annihilation of both skyrmions and antiskyrmions is enabled by the transient creation and propagation of topological singularities (magnetic monopolelike Bloch points). Critically, our results predict that during the winding/unwinding of skyrmionic textures, the Bloch-point propagation will give rise to an emergent electric field with a substantial amplitude and in the terahertz frequency range. We also demonstrate ways for controlling Bloch-point dynamics, which directly enable the tunablility on generation of this signal, as well as its frequency and amplitude. Our studies provide a concept of directly exploiting topological singularities for terahertz skyrmion-based electronic devices.

PhD Success!

Congratulations to Charley Bull on successfully defending her thesis and being awarded a PhD. Charley’s work (thesis: “Development of MTJs and antiferromagnetic materials for spintronic applications”) focused on studying the sputter deposition conditions required to fabricate magnetic tunnel junctions (MTJs) and investigating the thin films properties using a number of characterisation techniques. In addition, Charley investigated the effect of topography and strain on the magnetic properties of FeRh thin fils as the thickness is reduced.

Well done Charley!

New Paper Published

We have had a new paper published in RSC Advances: “Magnetic response of FeRh to static and dynamic disorder”, B. Eggert, A. Schmeink, J. Lill, M.O. Liedke, U. Kentsch, M. Butterling, A. Wagner, S. Pascarelli, K. Potzger, J. Lindner, T. Thomson, J. Fassbender, K. Ollefs, W. Keune, R. Bali, H. Wende, RSC Advances 10 (2020), 14386 – 14395. You can view the published paper here.

Abstract: Atomic scale defects generated using focused ion as well as laser beams can activate ferromagnetism in initially non-ferromagnetic B2 ordered alloy thin film templates. Such defects can be induced locally, confining the ferromagnetic objects within well-defined nanoscale regions. The characterization of these atomic scale defects is challenging, and the mechanism for the emergence of ferromagnetism due to sensitive lattice disordering is unclear. Here we directly probe a variety of microscopic defects in systematically disordered B2 FeRh thin films that are initially antiferromagnetic and undergo a thermally-driven isostructural phase transition to a volatile ferromagnetic state. We show that the presence of static disorder i.e., the slight deviations of atoms from their equilibrium sites is sufficient to induce a non-volatile ferromagnetic state at room temperature. A static mean square relative displacement of 9 × 10−4 Å−2 is associated with the occurrence of non-volatile ferromagnetism and replicates a snapshot of the dynamic disorder observed in the thermally-driven ferromagnetic state. The equivalence of static and dynamic disorder with respect to the ferromagnetic behavior can provide insights into the emergence of ferromagnetic coupling as well as achieving tunable magnetic properties through defect manipulations in alloys.