Current Induced Magnetization Dynamics in Electrodeposited Nanostructures

In this thesis we make use of the Spin Transfer Torque effect from a continuous microwave current to induce and study the spin dynamics of an individual sub-100 nm nanostructure. The idea that an electrical current can carry a spin angular momentum was introduced in the 1980 with the advent of Spintronics. In 1996, Slonczewski and Berger predicted that, when flowing through a metal ferromagnet, such a spin polarized current can exert a torque on the magnetization. This effect is known as Spin transfer Torque (STT) and implies the possibility to manipulate the magnetization by means of an electrical current. One of the characteristics of the STT effect is that it allows for the magnetization dynamics to be excited and detected electrically. This makes the STT a perfect tool for the investigation of spin dynamics at the nano-scale. Indeed, the intrinsic local character of transport measurements permits a single nanostructure to be addressed and studied. This thesis is devoted to the study of the STT effect induced by a microwave current (AC STT). Our experiment focuses on two main aspects: the intrinsic dynamics of the magnetization and the role of a microwave current in assisting the magnetization reversal. We perform our measurements on Co/Cu nanowires electrodeposited in nanoporous polycarbonate templates. The electrical contact to a nanostructure is realized thanks to a home-made sample-holder, without the use of any lithographic technique. In the first part of the thesis a continuous microwave current is used to both drive and probe the magnetization dynamics of a pseudo spin valve nanostructure. Our measurements show that the magnetization dynamics in such a structure is extremely complex and arises from the excitation of both magnetic layers in the pseudo spin valve. In the dynamical spectrum we identify the fundamental modes of both magnetic layers, as confirmed by macrospin simulations. Higher frequency modes are attributed to spatially non-uniform spin wave excitations, in agreement with that observed by others in arrays of nanoelements. These results validate our technique for making samples and contacting them for AC STT-induced dynamical studies. The second part of this work is aimed at testing the effect of AC STT on the static switching field of magnetic nanoelements. The magnetoresistive curve of a pseudo spin valve structure is recorded with and without an additional microwave current. Our results prove the effectiveness of AC STT in assisting the magnetization reversal. We measured a reduction of the switching field up to 80 mT by injecting a microwave current of about 100 µA. This experiment suggests that the range of sensitivity of magnetoresistive devices could be tuned by simply injecting a continuous microwave current. This point is particularly interesting for the prospect of technological applications such as magnetic sensors.

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